November 19, 2021


Pro Tips

Pro Tips: Introducing Your Child to New Foods

Pro Tips provided by: Dr. Jennifer Felber, Director of The Pediatric Feeding Clinic at The Summit Center

Is your child an extremely picky eater? Are you concerned that your child resists trying new foods or eats a limited number of foods? Having a child who doesn’t eat, or who seems to exist on the same few foods, can make mealtimes very stressful. Below are some tips to help increase the likelihood of success when introducing foods to your child!

1. Start small.

When presenting a new food, I encourage parents to start by giving them a small piece of the food as opposed to placing a whole portion of a new food on their dinner plate. For example, if green beans were not your favorite food, would you want a whole bowl of them for dinner? Start by presenting bites that are the size of a pea or grain of rice. Once your child is comfortable and accepting small amounts, gradually increase the size of the bite or portion of the food to a normal amount.

2. One at a time.

Children, especially picky eaters, often become overwhelmed when they’re given new food to try. For these children, it is helpful to introduce them to a new food one a time. Families should include some of their child’s preferred foods on the plate with the new food. Including a preferred food with a novel food often decreases anxiety in picky eaters and increases the likelihood that they will eat something during the meal. When presenting both during a mealtime, encourage your child to rotate through the foods on the plate, instead of keeping the nonpreferred food until last.

3. Hold tasting sessions.

While mealtimes can be overwhelming for parents, it also can be overwhelming for children. For a picky eater, putting a new food on their plate can cause a lot of stress. Stress and anxiety suppress appetite, which decreases the likelihood that your child will eat during the meal. If introducing foods during mealtimes is not going well, try holding tasting sessions with new foods during a snack time before giving your child these foods during a family meal. This can eliminate pressure and stress for yourself and your child during meals.

4. Offer choices.

Picky eaters do better when they are given a choice between two new foods or between two sizes of the same food. Increasing the number of foods your child can choose from increases the chances that they will enjoy or be more open to trying the food. Allowing your child to select either a small or larger bite may also increase the likelihood that they will try the food. A child that is afraid to taste new foods may be more willing to try something that is small rather than something larger. Children who are sensitive to the smell, taste, or texture of certain foods may be more likely to tolerate a new food when the bite size is reduced.

5. Be consistent.

Children need to be exposed to a food multiple times before they will like it. What is considered multiple? Research suggests 15 to 20 times (Birch, L.L., & Fisher, J.O., 1998), so it is important to be consistent. Although it might be hard enough for you to get your child to try a food once let alone 20 times, it gets easier! If your child tries a new food once, they will gradually be more willing to try it again with more exposures. Since it is important that children are exposed to foods multiple times, I encourage families to select foods that they often eat for dinner so it is more likely their child will be exposed to the food.

6. Praise.

If your child tries a new food, provide lots of praise and positive attention. This will increase the likelihood the child will try a new food in the future!