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10 Ways To Get Your Kids To Try New Foods

school trip

My daughter at the cafeteria table during breakfast

How A Four-Day Class Trip Helped Develop the Tasting Rules

Last week I spent four days as a parent helper on a class trip with my daughter’s school. Quelle adventure! We were 10 adults and 55 children (between the ages of 5 and 10) and our role as a parent included helping serve the kids their meals and encouraging them to taste and eat the food. For the meals, the children sat in a large cafeteria style room at 8 tables with 8 kids at each table, with the kindergarteners sitting mixed in with the 4th graders as their ‘buddies.’

For nine meals we ate together, the cafeteria staff would roll in a large trolley the first course (salad or light appetizer), and then the second course (main meal) and the third course (cheese and dessert). Each course was presented at the kid’s tables with the adults serving the food courses to the kids. As you can imagine, each child had their own food and taste preferences. Some of the food on the trip was new to them. And at each table there was at least one ‘picky’ eater who refused everything. Quelle challenge!

This school trip was the perfect opportunity to help the children taste and learn about new foods in a safe, non-forceful environment.

As one of the parent helpers, I used encouragement and support to help the children try to taste the foods without forcing them to eat it. And seeing these kids trying these new foods (some liking them, some not) was really rewarding. With my adopted (for four days) kids I used the same tasting rules that I do with my four kids at home.

A Typical Scenario At the Table and How to Encourage Kids to Eat

I don’t like that.

This was the typical reaction of some of the pickier eaters on the school trip when I held up the large spoon of food ready to be put on their plate. (Actually most kids were keen on eating, some of the food wasn’t high on their list of favorite foods, but they were hungry, so they accepted what I put on their plates).

For others, the pickier eaters, or those who just don’t like certain foods, it was harder to get them to taste. Some put their hands over the plate so I wouldn’t serve this particular food to them.

I hate carrots. I hate fish. I hate sauce. I hate gratin. I hate this or that.

And I replied, “I would like you to taste this food. If you don’t like it, you can spit it out and you don’t have to eat it.”

And I would put a miniscule of this food on the side of their plate and walk away.

When I came back, they had tried it. Sometimes they liked it and wanted more. Sometimes they didn’t like it and I told them that I was very proud that they tasted it.

These tasting rules I used on the school trip are the same ones we use at home. Here they are. What do you think?

10 Ways To Help Get Your Kids To Try New Foods

  1. Hunger and being hungry to taste. Kids who are hungry will make more effort to taste new foods.
  2. Good looking food. Food that looks good to taste will have higher chances to be tasted.
  3. No food battles, just make it fun and keep it light and normal. Tasting should be fun and a normal part of the eating process. When it becomes a battle and your child outright refuses to taste, drop the battle and pick it up at the next meal. 
  4. Taste a small amount and do not force swallowing. Just small taste is okay and in my experience if your child is not forced to swallow the food (if they don’t like it) this helps them to make the move to taste.
  5. Easier when others try the new food around the table (parents too). Tasting should be a rule for everyone at the table, parents included, older sister and brothers too. The more support and role models, the better chances that your child will taste new foods.
  6.  Be persistent and direct without bribing and scolding. Encouragement without guilt helps to keep tasting normal.
  7. Stick to your tasting rules and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it.  I don’t believe in ever forcing a child to eat the foods that are presented to them. I have strongly encouraged my kids to eat their foods, but if they have made a good effort to taste and try, that is good enough for me. (To avoid food waste, offer small portions and refill on the plate as needed).
  8. Offer new foods at least once a week, and with the foods they don’t like, keep trying. Sometimes it takes 20 times before a child will accept a new food. A child’s age between 2 and 6 years old is the most difficult period to accept new foods.
  9. Make kids the chef for the day and have them taste their foods they have cooked. From my experience, this tip works really well.
  10. Offer a dip or sauce for some new foods which can help ‘overcome’ the raw taste of the food-like dipping broccoli in ranch dressing.

Your kids won’t always like the food they taste, they won’t always eat the way you may wish them to either, but I think the main point is to taste and appreciate the food that is in front of them. Do you agree?

How do you get your kids to try new foods? Any tips you would like to add? Shout them out in the feedback section below this article.

For more reading on helping kids taste new foods, click on the link here from Science Daily.

Or got to the end and want to read more? I would love to share my professional and personal stories as a nutritionist and mom living in France, just ‘next door’ to Italy, my second heart home. You can follow me on Twitter, or sign up for article updates and newsletter by clicking the button below. Your email will always remain private and by subscribing you can download your free E-report on “10 Simple Ways to Eat Like the French Without Having a Food Snob Attitude.”

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Wishing you success with feeding you kids well!

Warmly, Mary

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