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How do you get your child to try new foods?

Introduction:

It is extremely common for children to be resistant to trying new foods. Research suggests that there may be important evolutionary reasons why children avoid many vegetables and fruits etc. Many plants are toxic and toddlers and young children are therefore necessarily wary of plants. There is also evidence that young children are much more sensitive to bitter food tastes and really can't bear the taste of many healthy vegetables and fruits. Frustratingly for parents, children appear to be 'programmed' to find high calorie foods full of sugars, other carbohydrates and fats appealing. Thus the question of trying new foods perhaps needs to be much more specific. Is it about widening the diet to include more healthy fruits, pulses and vegetables? Or is that your child refuses almost everything? If it is the latter then your child is very likely to have significant behavioural and or sensory needs.

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Strategies:

Babies up to 18 months should ideally be exposed to lots of different fruits and vegetables. Until this age babies are generally more willing to accept strong and strange tastes when fed by their parent.
Never force a child to eat a food that makes them 'gag' or be sick.
Children are more likely to accept foods if their friends eat them. So inviting your child's friend round for a meal after school can often be a good time to introduce a new food. (Might need to check that the friend will eat it!)
Invite your child to help with supermarket shopping and involve them in choices of the food bought.
Plan out a weekly menu with one new food to be tried that week. You may find the New Food Menu resource helpful.
Try putting new foods onto a different plate when introducing them.
Encourage food play. You can use a whole range of foods to create art work that is both fun to do and a really useful way of reducing anxiety and fear over new foods. And if they happen to lick their fingers when their hands are covered in pureed vegetable 'paint' all the better!
Use reward system for trying new foods.

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You may be interested in the following pages:

Eating Disorders

Sensory Needs

Sensory Management Taste

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