How to get picky eaters to try new foods
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Have fun with presentation
If your kids are sensitive to the texture, color or taste of certain foods, culinary expert, food stylist and author of The Pretty Plate Rachel Sherwood recommends preparing the same food in multiple ways. "One night you may try apple slices with skin, the next you may try applesauce. They may not like raw carrots but love them sautéed or steamed. Different cooking methods change the color, texture and flavor of foods," Sherwood says.
Photo credit: Dana Verhoff
Sherwood likes to serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. "My niece won't eat peas normally, but if you give her a bowl and some toothpicks to make 'pea kabobs' with a dipping sauce, she can’t get enough."
Cut back on snacks
If you wait until the kids are good and hungry, you'll probably have better luck getting them to try new foods. "Hungry kids are often more open to trying new things," says Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, dietitian and blogger at RealMomNutrition.com. If you want hungry kids at the dinner table, Kuzemchak recommends giving them only veggies in the hour before dinner.
Put them in charge of shopping
Bring your kids to the farmers market or grocery store and let them choose a new fruit or vegetable they've never tried. Stephanie Merchant, food and lifestyle expert and founder of The Nutrition Mom, LLC, says this encourages curiosity and shows that we value kids' opinions.
Grow your food
Plant a garden, a tomato plant, or even a window herb box. "We want children to know where food really comes from," says Merchant. "If they are involved, they are more likely to try it."
Gross them out
Sometimes, the gross factor is the best way get kids' attention. "Science experiments are not just for school!" says Merchant. "There are some very interesting experiments done on food that just might influence their future choices without any prodding from Mom. Have you seen the fast food burger and fries that never go bad? Yikes!"
Don't buy the good stuff
Lifestyle and wellness consultant Jasmine Jafferali, MPH, ACE-CPT, has some advice you might not expect: Don't buy their favorite foods. You know what she's talking about – the chicken nuggets, the mac and cheese. "It is like having alcohol in the house with an alcoholic. You simply don't buy it... when you don't have them in your home, you won't resort to it."
Go for big flavor
Jafferali suggests letting the kids flavor their own foods. "One fun thing to do is to have a turntable in the middle of your kitchen table with various spices. Let them play sous chef and put their own flavorings on, and they most likely will try their own creations."
Make movie munchies
Certified nutritionist Adrienne Hew suggests matching a meal to a movie. "If Karate Kid II is on TV tonight, then buy (or better yet, make) sushi or another Japanese dish. Explain that this is what Daniel-san would be eating when he goes to Japan." She says the context and the desire to be like their movie heroes often outweighs any pickiness.