Outside of a medical reason for finicky eating, picky eaters are typically making a choice to avoid a cross section of food which could lead them to missing out on important nutrients and food experiences. Thankfully I’ve never had that problem myself (surprise, surprise). It’s been a new experience that’s popped up as I’ve found myself cooking for my BF (boyfriend) and my nieces and nephews. This is why I’ve gone on a search to find how to get picky eaters to try new foods. Here’s what I’ve found and what’s worked for us.
First I had to remember that although I have a varied palate, I too have a list, smaller than theirs, of foods that won’t cross my lips. As a result I had to start by acknowledging my own food issues so that I could begin to celebrate their progress, instead of holding out for a level of perfection that I don’t even have.
For both my BF and my nieces and nephews, I’ve found that meal planning and cooking together does wonders in making new food more appealing. They take pride in having helped plan and prepare the food we to eat. Helping with meal planning makes them feel invested, which is why I usually let them pick the protein (meat, chicken, sausage, etc.) and I get to pick the veggie sides. This creates a balance their comfortable with because they get to have their favorite protein, along with something new. Through out the process I season the sides in the same way the protein gets seasoned, so as to keep the same flavors alive through out, keeping the taste shift to a minimum.
As we begin to eat, I make sure to only serve them a few pieces of the new food, so that as they try at least one, I don’t feel like the rest has gone to waste and they don’t feel overwhelmed with the amount they have to eat during their first encounter. Then I try to turn it into a game, where everyone takes their first bite of the new food together. If after a bite they still say they can’t do it, I try to find out whether it was the taste, the texture or the look that is keeping them from eating it. Based on their feedback, I can try to find other ways to present it again in the future, so as to see if there’s a new way to get success. For me, just saying no once doesn’t equal defeat. It just means it needs to be repackaged. If after 3 attempts it’s still a no go, then it’s time to find other fruits and veggies that may be winners.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that pretty food tends to go down easier. Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve found great ideas on how to get creative with my food presentation. It all starts with bite sized pieces, which is why I try to chop up the fruits and veggies into easy bites and then I try to arrange them in fun designs. This makes it easier to add fun names like carrot fingers, cucumber moons, etc. While I haven’t moved toward using fun cutouts, I know using such tactics can only help.
Thankfully, these tactics, along with peer pressure from their cousins on food, my picky eaters have been able to embrace onions, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, corn tortillas, fish tacos, along with a few other food options. Not bad if I do say so myself. 😉
What tactics have you used on your picky eaters?