1. Start small
Gradually introduce new foods in small spoonfuls to avoid overwhelming your child. Try new foods together and show that you’re willing to try new things too.
Pro-tip: starting with little bites from your own plate can work well. You are your little one’s main role model so if you’re eating something they’ll be more likely to try it.
2. Stay strong
It can take up to 10-15 tastes of a new food before your child gets used to it, so it’s worth persevering to widen the range of things they will happily eat.
Pro-tip: try and keep language positive when you’re talking about food. Phrases like ‘Johnny doesn’t like peas’ will reinforce your child’s beliefs – whereas in reality, their tastes and mood will vary from day to day.
3. Use positive peer pressure
Children’s eating habits are strongly influenced by what they see others around them eating. If you know another child who’s an adventurous eater, invite them round for tea – watching them eat different food might just encourage your little one to join in.
Pro-tip: seeing the adults in their life eating a range of healthy food and being really enthusiastic about it will help your little one feel more inclined to try them too.
4. Keep things calm
Try to make your dinner table an open and relaxed place. Talk about what you’re eating, how it tastes and where it comes from to spark your child’s interest. You could tell the story of why a particular dish is your family favourite, just like Grandma Zainab’s apple chutney!
Pro-tip: it’s natural for young children to become averse to new foods as they start to be more independent – it’s actually an evolutionary development to stop them picking at harmful food as they explore the world. It’s something to cling to if you’re getting worried about it!
5. Don’t use sweets as a reward
Give children lots of praise when they explore a new food. Try using a reward chart with non-food treats to track their progress.
Pro-tip: avoid using sweets or dessert as a reward for good behaviour or for children eating their main meal, as it tends to reinforce that some foods are ‘fun’ and some are not.
6. Involve children in food preparation
Children are more likely to try new food if they’ve had a hand in getting it ready – involve them in planning, shopping and preparing meals whenever you can. Why not try one of the recipes from My World Kitchen together?
Pro-tip: giving children choice over what they eat can really empower them to try more things. Meals like wraps or pizza with a choice of fillings they can sprinkle on themselves are a great way to encourage reluctant eaters.
Above all, keep calm and remember that most children do grow out of fussy eating habits with age.