July 13, 2024

Getting Picky Eaters to Try New Foods by Kristen Yarker, R.D.

Child-Feeding Expert Child Feeding Expert’s Secret Tip for Using Packed Lunches to Get Picky Eaters to Try New Foods

It’s back to school. Which is the perfect time for me to share this secret tip that’s been super successful with my picky eater clients.

In the 6 years that I’ve worked with Moms and Dads of picky eaters, I’ve noticed that almost every family makes the same mistake. The only time that they offer their picky child a challenging food is at dinner. (Note that a “challenging food” is either a new food or one that their child has seen many times but refuses to eat). This backfires because even toddlers and preschoolers will notice this pattern. And so they will refuse to eat, act out, or come up with any other excuse not to come to the table and eat dinner. For many kids, picky eating stems from being afraid of the food. It’s a developmental stage that I call “food-wariness”. Instead of facing their fears, kids will do everything that they can to avoid the dreaded challenging food.

The first step to getting these kids to try new foods on their own is to have them become accustomed to seeing a new food in front of them. It’s the first baby step in overcoming their fear. By frequently presenting a new food, they become accustomed to the food’s presence. Thus they become more confident. Eventually that confidence, along with their desire to grow up, is what motivates them to try new foods.

So what’s this secret, successful tip that I promised to share?
Include challenging foods in packed lunches.

Now take note that I’m not saying to pack a lunch that only includes challenging foods. What I’m saying is to frequently (not necessarily every day) pack one challenging food along with your child’s favorites. The “bento-box” style lunch kits make it easy to include a challenging food because the challenging food won’t touch your child’s favorites. And, we all know how much young kids don’t like their foods to touch.
Even if your fussy eater doesn’t eat the challenging food, you’re building their food-confidence because you’re helping them become accustomed to seeing a challenging food in front of them. And, what’s even better is that you don’t have to watch your child not eat it (which I know drives so many parents nuts)!

Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: kristenyarker.com

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