Strategies for introducing strange new foods

You’ve tried it all.

“It’s delicious.”

“It’ll make you big and strong.”

“It’s a magic avocado.”

Still, she won’t budge. Whether Baby is a picky eater or not, it’s quite common for toddlers to balk when it comes trying new foods, especially when they look very different from anything they’ve tried before. Couple that with your little one’s desire to be independent at mealtime, and you can kiss that old airplane feeding trick goodbye. In the toddler years, it will take a bit more than a flying utensil to get unfamiliar cuisine past her lips. Some of these tips may sound suspiciously like the basic strategies suggested for introducing new foods at younger ages, but that’s because, in many cases, the classics are still the most effective ways to encourage boldness in your tot’s palate.

  • Slow and steady: It’s important not to overwhelm Baby with what’s on her plate, so be mindful of how you introduce a food that is unfamiliar. Introducing new foods one at a time gives you the chance to both watch for an allergic reaction, and maybe encourage her to give that one new food a chance. If she sees a whole plate-full of things she doesn’t recognize, she may decide to pass on the meal altogether. Another way to keep new foods from looking too overwhelming is to be sure to limit portion sizes – toddler portions are generally about a quarter of the size of an adult portion. Pairing the new food with one you already know she likes can also help the new food look a little tastier in Baby’s eyes.
  • Consider the time: Like most people, Baby is probably more likely to try a new food when she is hungry, so on days when you’re planning to introduce something new, following a meal schedule, instead of being a little looser about snacking and grazing, may be more useful. Keep mealtime structured, and minimize distractions when it’s time to eat. You want her to not only have an appetite, but also to be focused on the food in front of her.
  • Keep it fun: Though it can be stressful when toddlers don’t eat something that’s been prepared for them, it’s best not to force the food, which might start to give her negative associations with it. Instead, it can be especially helpful to make sure she sees you enjoying the new food, which may encourage her to take that first nibble. You may decide to cut the food into fun shapes, or make a design on her plate to make it seem more appealing. If she still won’t bite, you can always save it for another day.

Toddlers may protest new foods for a variety of reasons, so don’t feel you’re doing the meal thing wrong if she flat out refuses an unfamiliar dish. Some toddlers have more sensitive palates than others, or are just cautious about new foods by nature. Research shows it can take up to 15 exposures to a food before it’s accepted, so don’t give up too soon. What she won’t touch today very well may be her new favorite tomorrow!

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