Family expert Sara Dimerman is here to answer any questions you may have. If you need to submit a question, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. How can I get my child to eat new foods?
A. This is one of the most common questions I get asked. Parents find it particularly frustrating and feel powerless when it comes to getting their children to try new foods. What typically begins as a parent encouraging her child to at least taste something, or bribing the child with the promise of a favourite dessert can easily become a full out power struggle as the child purses her lips and defiantly refuses to do as requested.
Some of the tips I often provide parents are the following:
Let them serve themselves.
Rather than serving your child from food on the stove or counter, rather place bowls of food on the table and allow each family member to serve him or herself. The younger children may need some assistance but depending on their ages, they may appreciate being given the chance of saying when their plates are full enough. This way, children may be more inclined to try something new, especially when they feel that they are in charge of choice and consumption.
Model what you want to see.
If your children see you eating the foods you’d like them to try, chances are that they will eventually try them too. I’ve known many children who have lived on peanut butter and jam sandwiches or mac and cheese or chicken nuggets and pizza for years and then begin eating broccoli and carrots as they grow older.
Make food fun.
Janet Nezon, founder of Rainbow Plate finds creative ways to show children (and adults) in centres such as schools and at community events how to appreciate the beauty of food by exposing them to a rainbow of rich colours and textures. Without the pressure to eat them because they are healthy, many children are turned onto trying new food because they are excited to experience them. I had the privilege of interviewing Janet as a guest on one of my podcasts on my site (www.helpmesara.com) about secrets to raising a healthy eater. You may want to check it out.
Bottom line is to try to make food fun. If there’s too much pressure to try new foods, if children feel tricked into eating foods by having them disguised or if they feel forced to eat everything on their plates, then the opposite of your desire to encourage them to try new foods will occur.
Sara Dimerman is a psychologist in the Toronto area who has provided counselling to individuals, couples and families for more than twenty-five years. She is the author of four books – two for parents and two for couples – the most recent of which is “Why Married Couples Don’t have Sex….at least not with each other!” and is a columnist and podcast producer/host for sites and print media across North America and internationally. She is a regular guest on radio and television and is interviewed frequently for articles online, in newspapers and magazines. Sara is married and has two daughters. Visit Sara‘s website: www.helpmesara.com or follow her on Twitter @helpmesara.