Whether he’s been slowly transitioning from breast milk or formula to gradually lumpier purees, or he jumped headfirst into finger foods, now that he has a few more teeth, he is probably ready to start to explore a whole new range of different foods – whether he knows it yet or not. As always, when introducing Baby to new foods, it’s important to take extra care introducing common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, and seafood. Don’t hesitate to check in with your healthcare provider about a strategy for introducing common allergens. Other than that, though, the sky is the limit and the more new tastes, smells, textures, spices you can get Baby to try, the better a chance he has of developing broad, adventurous tastes in food.
There’s no one right way to raise a bold eater, but there are different strategies that can be helpful in every step of eating, from grocery shopping to preparing meals to sitting around the table.
Choosing the right time of day
For one thing, Baby probably isn’t likely to want to dig into his first big bite of Brussels sprouts when he has just finished a big meal, or is halfway through eating something he already likes. On the other hand, if he isn’t as enthusiastic about a new type of food, it’s easy for parents and caregivers to start to worry about a toddler going hungry. Introducing new foods at the beginning of breakfast or lunch means that your toddler is more likely to be hungry and primed to eat something new, but that he has another meal coming up soon, if he doesn’t eat much.
Start with a small amount
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Baby’s taste in food be. Starting small when it comes to serving sizes of a new dish can help to keep him from getting scared off of a new delicacy before he even gets started. This might mean just having a small side-dish of something new as a part of a meal he is already familiar with (he can always have seconds if the new dish is a hit right away) or it might mean mixing a new food into an old, familiar on – for example, adding tiny pieces of a new type of vegetable to a favorite pasta dish. Transitioning slowly by adding new foods to familiar flavors can help keep the new foods from seeming too shocking.
Show them you love it
At this point, Baby has probably learned most of the things he knows about the world, so why should how he feels about peas be any different? Giving your toddler the chance to see you enjoying your healthy dinner is one of the reasons eating meals together as a family is so highly recommended, and telling him how you feel about what you’re eating is just taking that idea to the next level. As you’re eating at the table you can start by talking about what foods you’re eating. Describe what they taste like. Tell your toddler how good they are, and how strong and energetic they help you grow. If Baby sees you eating it, he is more likely to try it.
Good ol’ peer pressure
As Baby grows more social and interested in other children as he grows, you’re not the only one who can have an impact on him by leading by example. If he is around other children his age who are eating exciting new foods, he may be more eager to try new foods, too. This isn’t always an easy example to find for him, but if you make a point to talk to other parents, you’re sure to find one or two whose little ones boldly eat what few toddlers have eaten before, and who might be up for a lunch date. Just be wary about making comparisons between their eating habits and Baby’s when you’re talking to him, since that can lead to power struggles over food.