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7 Ways to Get Your Preschooler to Try New Foods


When preschoolers decide they don't like something, it can be difficult to convince them to rethink their opinion or try something new again. Parents and guardians of four, five, and six year olds who are reluctant to try new foods can be setting them up for a lifetime of picky eating and food frustration if they don't encourage their children to open their minds to unfamiliar tastes and experiences. If your child is becoming a fussy eater, it might be time to roll up your sleeves and follow some simple strategies to help your child get out of their food comfort zone.

1. Ensure they are hungry

Who wants to be forced to eat when they aren't even hungry? Let alone something new? Take a look at what times of the day you are asking your child to try a new food. If you're telling your child to eat some carrots for the first time only an hour or two after they ate lunch, they may become agitated and fussy. According to the Mayo Clinic, parents shouldn't force their children to eat when they aren't hungry, as doing so may cause the child to associate food with frustration. Be careful not to sabotage yourself!

2. Place healthy foods in an easy-to-grab spot

It's so much easier for your child to try different foods like grapes or string cheese if they can reach those foods in the kitchen without your help. In an article for The New York Times, writer Tara Parker-Pope suggested that parents be careful not to restrict children's access to food. When children are told they can't have a certain type of snack, many times they will binge on that food when they finally have the chance to. If you want to ensure your child doesn't snack on cookies all day, place bananas, carrots, or granola bars on the counter or table so your child can easily grab a snack if they get hungry. Even if they haven't tried the food before, they might be more willing to try it if it's staring them in the face when they're hungry!

3. Make picking out food fun

Many children love to choose what they want to eat, so a great way to help your preschooler to bite into a new food is to allow them to pick it out. Take them to the supermarket with you and allow them to choose one new, healthy snack every week. They don't get to choose a certain snack twice, and while this might be a challenge for some (complete with tears in public), giving them the opportunity to get something new that's just for them can help children take a risk and try new things. Bonus points for hitting up a farmers' market in your area!

4. Build off of your child's taste buds or unique preferences

When picky children find a flavor or a specific food they like, they tend to stick with it - and only it. A great way to get around this is to use this particular preference to your advantage. Does your child only eat white foods? Get them to try cauliflower, then expand from that by mixing in some broccoli. also recommended taking a flavor your child already loves and adding it to a new food. For instance, you can glaze a carrot with a little honey to encourage your picky preschooler with a sweet tooth to try it. Just be careful not to add honey to everything at your child's insistence.

5. Allow them to make their own fruit kebabs

This strategy comes straight from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which recommended parents pair seasonal fruits with their children's need to play by making fruit kebabs together as a family. All you need are kebab spears and slices of fruit, and you and your children can easily make fruit kebabs! Giving preschoolers the opportunity to assemble their own food - complete with the chance of trying a strawberry next to a watermelon slice - can allow them to use their abundant energy in a positive, productive way.

6. Model!

If you don't try new foods or eat nutritionally, chances are your child won't either. Little ones are natural copycats because one of the best ways they learn is by watching how older, more experienced people behave, according to an article by Sarah Krieger, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, for PBS Parents. Let your child watch you try new foods, even if you have a feeling you won't like what you're about to have. Just seeing their parent or guardian take a bite out of a bizarre-looking vegetable at a farmer's market can be enough for a child to feel brave enough to try something unfamiliar too!

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