Healthy Children - January 2013


A Dozen Ways to Get Kids to Try New Foods

Research indicates that children as young as four and five years old are beginning to develop food habits that will last into their adult years. Willingness to taste new foods at these early ages is key to building a healthy diet for the “here and now,” as well as for their future.

Trouble getting your picky eaters to try new foods? You are not alone. It’s a very common problem in young children, so don’t despair. Try these tips* below to increase your success rate.

One step at a time
Offer just one new food at a time. Let the child know in advance if it is sweet, salty or sour.
A taste is just a taste
Let your child decide the amount to try. A “taste” can be as small as 1/2 teaspoon
What goes in may come out...and that’s okay!
Recent studies indicate young children are more likely to try a new food if they have the option of not swallowing it. Show children how to carefully spit the food into a napkin if they decide they don’t want to swallow it.
If at first you don’t succeed...try, try again
Many young children must be offered a food 8 to 10 times before they will try it, according to recent research. Continue to offer a new food...don’t give up. Eventually they are likely to give it a try.
Be a role model
Imitation is a powerful force in learning. If you want children to drink milk, for example, make sure they see you drinking milk as well.
Capitalize on “food tasting” peers
To encourage a reluctant taster, have him or her sit with friends or siblings that are good tasters when you introduce new food.
Serve an unfamiliar food with familiar ones
It increases the likelihood that a child will taste the new food. For example, use pudding as a dip for trying pineapple spears or kiwi slices.
Color and texture make a difference
Children prefer bright colors and interesting textures. Crunchy fruits and smooth pudding make a nice contrast. The bright color of red and yellow bell peppers may entice them to taste.
Involve children in the preparation
Children are more likely to try a food they have helped prepare. Even young children can help stir, mash, pour and measure
You can lead them to a new food...but you can’t make them eat
Never force a child to try a food. Offer it. If it is not eaten, simply take the food away and present it again at a different time.
Present the Pyramid
Offer new foods from all five groups of the Food Guide Pyramid. Include 1) Milk, cheese and yogurt, 2) Meat, poultry, fish, beans and eggs, 3) Fruits, 4) Vegetables, 5) Bread, Cereal and Pasta. All food groups are important for good health.
Lessons from literature
Read stories about food to your children. They may be more likely to try a food that has been introduced in a story.

Midwest Dairy Council®, 2000 May be reproduced for educational purposes. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*Tips adapted from Chef Combo’s Fantastic Adventures in Tasting and Nutrition, a nutrition education program for preschool and kindergarten classrooms from National Dairy Council.