Kelsey Long MA, CCC-SLP, TSSLD
Mealtime tips from spark speech!
HERE ARE SOME TIPS THAT CAN HELP YOUR LITTLE ONE EXPAND THEIR FOOD REPERTOIRE
Make sure YOU! eat new foods from time to time
When your child sees you trying a new food and reacting to it in a positive way, it helps them understand that tasting new foods is a normal part of everyone’s life. Try something new together with your child! Shopping together at a grocery store or farmers market creates plenty of opportunities to choose a fruit, vegetable or another food your family has never tried before.
Make mealtimes positive!
Serve a variety of foods that you enjoy and that you want your children to eat, limit snacking, eliminate grazing, and eat together with your children instead of feeding them the new foods. During the meal, relax and allow your children to serve themselves what and how much they want. Most importantly, focus on your own meal.
When your children see you having so much fun eating delicious foods they will join you enjoying them sooner. Forget about the short-term goal of getting nutrition into our child and focus on a long term goal of fostering a healthy relationship with food and teaching your child about balanced eating habits.
If mealtimes are more relaxed and pleasant for everyone, the whole family eats better. Expect good mealtime behavior from your children and do not tolerate rudeness or whining just like in any other situations!
Strive for an overall variety in diet
A new food does not have to be a vegetable. Getting kids to try a new type of bread, yogurt or sausage can become a stepping stone to a wider range of all accepted foods, including veggies. If your child likes spaghetti, serve bow-shaped pasta on every other day to get her to eat something new. Switching to whole grain bread, brown rice and pasta is yet another way to increase variety within the foods that your child is already happily eating. If your child eats only a few foods, it is especially important to create variety within what they are eating already. Too many unfamiliar foods may be overwhelming. Serving a different brand of fish sticks first, then preparing your own fish sticks at home and, finally, “upgrading” it to grilled fish may be the steps that will help you get your child to eat the fish the way you like it.
Make it fun but do not overinvest in getting your child to eat
Cutting fruit and veggies in fun shapes is a great technique that may get some reluctant eaters to sample a piece or two but it does not work for everyone. Prepare a variety of tasty food and present it to the child in a positive mealtime environment.
After that, it is up to the child to pick and choose what and how much to eat. Make the dinner table the happiest place in the house by being available to your children and having fun reconnecting to you kids after a busy day.
Beware of the “just one bite” rule
While this approach may work with more open and compliant children, it may make things worse for those with intense fear of new foods and textural sensitivities. Try to create a pleasant environment during mealtimes and eliminate pressure.
With no pressure to eat or try new foods, children usually relax and start exploring more. For example, they may start asking you about ingredients in foods you prepared or even request a bite of something they have been rejecting before. When you see these signs of innate curiosity in foods, you may start gently encouraging your child to taste a little bit of everything you serve. But be prepared to take “no” for an answer and back off immediately if the food is refused.
Pressuring, bribing and threatening your child to try a new food will backfire. Moreover, these techniques may create a strong link between food and emotions, especially when a child has to eat less liked foods in order to get a dessert. Offer a variety of wholesome foods to your child, they will get plenty of opportunities to see, touch, sample and learn to like challenging foods.
Be matter of fact about your child’s reaction
Instead of asking if they liked it, get your child to describe it and compare it to something they know.
For example, if your child tasted a spoon of butternut squash soup for the first time, ask if it was more similar to carrots or broccoli. Talk about the color, texture and flavor of the food. This kind of conversation fuels the natural tendency in children to explore. If the child is very negative about the new food, state in a matter-of-fact manner that they may start liking it next time and that they will get many more opportunities to try it.
Be careful not to scold your child for saying ‘ew’ and spitting the food out. Stay as neutral as possible, do not take it personally and teach them to spit the food in the napkin discreetly. It may take up to 20 neutral exposures to a food before your child starts accepting it.
Try foods that are similar in color to the ones they already love!
Use the same color foods to ones they are familiar with, but implement different textures! Introduce new foods slowly and let them play with it too! (Example: Use cooked spaghetti noodles and spell letters with them or make shapes).
Hope these tips are helpful!
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or would like more information. The Spark Speech team is here to help.
*Adapted from: https://feedingbytes.com/2012/11/how-to-get-children-to-eat-new-foods, https://www.bpossible.com/post/7-steps-to-help-your-child-develop-healthy-eating-habits