By Rachelle Ausman, UI dietetics student and Dr. SeAnne Safaii, Ph.D., RD, LD
“I don’t like that.” Does this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone! Children are born with more taste buds than adults, which mean that children are more sensitive to flavors than adults, They also are born with a preference for sweet tastes. This could be the reason why your child will eat sweeter foods like fruits over vegetables, which are often bitter.
A child may be a picky eater because of a fear of new foods. Just like learning new colors, or learning letters, children are still learning about the textures and tastes of new foods. So when a new food appears at the table, so can a fear to try it. It doesn’t matter if the food has been eaten before. If the food is in a different shape or form, it is a new food!
How can you help support your picky eater? Here are five tips:
First: Repeat, repeat and repeat! If your child will not eat a food, do not worry! According to Dr. Samantha Ramsay, a Child Nutrition Expert and Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho, data shows that adults may need to offer a food numerous times before a child will try it. The key is to help the child become familiar with the food by continually offering it without the pressure of having to eat it!
Second: You can help your child by relating new foods with foods that they have tried before. For example, if ou are serving kiwis for the first time you can mention to the child that kiwis have a sweet taste just like strawberries.
Third: Let your child be a part of the cooking preparation, This will not only help you, but it will help children learn more about different foods as well as provide a reason for trying it. For example children can peel oranges or stir ingredients in a bowl.
Forth: Children love dips – make dips healthy by offering yogurt dips for fruit and lite cheese dips or salsa dips for vegetables. Dips allow children to taste unfamiliar foods with familiar tasting dips
Fifth: If your child will not eat a food, do not force them! Forcing a child to eat can actually lead to negative feelings toward a food. According to Dr. Laurel Branen, a Child Nutrition Expert at the University of Idaho, if adults can express their opinions about foods so can children. If you let your child explore the foods you provide without forcing them, they are more likely to eat them.
If your child is still learning about new foods and doesn’t eat all of the foods you offer, don’t panic! Offer at least one nutrient dense food the child likes at meal times, but allow for the child to be exposed to other foods as well. For example, if our child doesn’t like chicken stir fry, but will eat rice and fruit, do not be shy to offer the fruit and rice while refraining from pressuring your child to eat the stir fry. Eventually, children eat the same foods as their adult caregivers.
For more information on picky eating see Eat Right Kids at www.eatright.org/kids.