Mealtime can be quite tricky for parents, especially when toddlers are still developing their preferences. At times, children are quite reluctant to experiment with different foods. Children are keen to stick to what they know, and hesitant to try new things which is a very normal part of development. Fear of new foods (food neophobia) is a response humans have developed through evolution, to protect us from potentially poisoning ourselves.
According to the Child Feeding Guide, the parent plays a vital role for the child’s food preferences. It is completely normal for children to refuse new foods at first, but it is our role to continually expose them. If we repeat that exposure, it helps the child gain familiarity and get comfortable with the food. It takes about 8-10 tries on average for a child to accept a new food!
Here are 5 ways that can help encourage your child to expand their palate
1. Use their favourite shapes
When introducing something completely unfamiliar to your child, try familiarising it by cutting it into a shape they recognise. For example, using cookie cutters to cut brown bread, veggies, chicken, fish, or cheese. You can use larger cookie cutters or smaller ones. This helps start the conversation with them and ease them into the meal they are so reluctant to eat.
2. Deconstruct the meal
Deconstructing food can help them understand what they’re eating. Rather than placing a full plate of ‘what is this??!’ in front of them, and hoping they will finish it. Deconstruction allows them to understand the food. This way also helps them gain independence to choose what they want and don’t want, giving them space to familiarise their preferences. It also develops their healthy relationship with food.
3. Make it colourful
Sometimes different colours are a great way to attract children towards food they don’t know about yet. I’ve started using natural colored fusilli from Double Happiness and it’s made incorporating veggies into my child’s diet a little less stressful. This pasta is made with vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkin, avocado, spinach, and purple cabbage. It is also egg-free.
4. Be a role model
Children learn by example. If we ourselves are picky eaters, there is no doubt our children will be picky eaters as well. If we love exploring different foods, and eat new foods in front of them, it is more likely they will get into the habit of trying new foods as well. Getting them involved with cooking at home is also a great way to familiarise them with new foods. It also gives them responsibility of their own dish and makes them feel proud that they made something new, and delicious.
5. Take them out with their friends
Sometimes, taking a child out with their friends is all it takes to encourage them to try something new. It is more likely that your child will eat the same thing their friends are eating. Try organising a playdate out to a child-friendly restaurant or ask the host of the playdate to cook something their own kids love to eat. Even if your child does not like anything, it is the exposure that counts.
Last but not least, this is a journey and not a sprint. If your child seems to be extremely reluctant to try new foods, be patient. I would never like to force my children to eat something they don’t want to. However, teaching them about new foods and culture, as well as allowing them the space to understand and appreciate food is what matters. Most of my friends never ate broccoli until I cooked it for them at university. I truly believe in exposing but not forcing. Overtime, children will gain familiarity and explore by themselves.
- 2 cookie cutters in different shapes or shapes your child loves. You can let them choose it
- 16 pcs different coloured pasta from Double Happiness vegetable fusilli pasta
- 1 carrot
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red pepper
- Boil the pasta until it is 90% cooked. If it is too soft, it will break once you poke them through the skewers
- Using the cookie cutters, cut different shapes through the cucumber, carrot and red pepper. When cutting shapes through the red pepper, you would need to de-seed it first, then cut off any curved edges in order to gain a flat part of the pepper.
- Using a skewer stick, add one coloured pasta, then one coloured veggie. Repeat this until you reach the top. Make sure the pointed top of the skewer is covered so your child doesn't poke themselves.
- You can drizzle their favourite pasta sauce over this or on the plate before plating! I drizzled some olive oil and sprinkled some cheese over this.