Do you ever feel that you serve the same foods to your family over and over again? Or have you ever introduced an unfamiliar food or a new recipe and there was whining, moaning and tears? Is your family is in a food rut and you don't know how to change things? Here are some simple and fun ways to bring new foods to the table.
1. Involve your children with new foods before they show up at the table. No matter what skill we are learning, we retain it so much better when we use all of our senses. Take a look at the photo above of bananas, kiwis and tangerines. If your children have never ever seen a kiwi, try letting them touch it and tell you what it feels like on the outside. You could have them guess what color is on the inside of the kiwi and let them watch as you peel it and see if their guess was right or not. For older children, you could show them this photo and have them arrange the pieces of the fruit to try to replicate the image. The chances of them now wanting to taste the kiwi will go up exponentially because they had some hands-on experience with the new food. On the other hand, if had you put the cut up kiwi slices in a bowl and served it on the table, your child may have found this new and unfamiliar food alarming, squealed and said the black dots on the kiwi look like bugs. From there, it could all go downhill.
Photo courtesy of Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock.com (Cutlet, pasta and vegetables)
2. Introduce a new food or an unfamiliar recipe by serving it with a familiar food. For example, if you wanted to try a new recipe, if you serve it with a favorite side, like apple sauce, you will see that the commotion around the new recipe will not be as loud or resistant. Children like routine, safety, and security, and this fact is true even when it comes to food. It may seem shocking to you that little kids can make such a big deal about a new food or dish, but their reaction to something new and strange on the table is just part of the developmental process. You could soften the blow further by serving the new and unfamiliar food with not just one, but two of their favorite foods. And don't be surprised if they still do not want to try your new recipe. Children often need to see a new food numerous times before they are willing to to try it. Also, seeing you eat a new food overtime can lessen their fear to try it.
Photo courtesy of freeskyline/Shutterstock.com (Spiced slow roast duck, apple sauce, spinach and potato)
3. Be very casual and relaxed when introducing the new food. For example, if your kids do not eat the kiwi, don't scramble to find something else for them to eat. Be assured that they will not go to bed vitamin C deficient. It is our job as parents to put a variety of nutritious foods on the table, but it is their job to determine if they like it or not. As one pediatric nutrition professor said years ago, can you name one food you don't like? Why do we think it necessary for our children to like every single food? You will find that children's likes and dislikes change over time. On a side note, if you have a child who refuses several whole food groups, such as all fruits and all vegetables, and especially if they complain about the texture of the food, it may be worth your time to have your child evaluated further by a medical professional. Many pediatric occupational therapists can help with texture issues as often times this can be the issue.
Some children are adventurous eaters and very accepting of new foods, so if your children are in that camp, lucky you! If however, you are among the many parents who struggle with picky eaters, try some of this simple suggestions. Whatever you do, keep on exposing your children to the big wide world of food. They will benefit in numerous ways that go well beyond good nutrition. Here are three recipes to try.
Tracy Owens is a board-certified sports and clinical dietician creating customized nutrition solutions for our Fit Family Challenge spotlight families that are simple and easy to follow. Owens is a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics. She is the Sports Dietitian at UNC-Greensboro, working as a staff member in Sports Medicine with all athletes. Sheh also owns Triangle Nutrition Therapy,