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, he 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 his 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 his 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 him to give that one new food a chance. If he sees a whole plate-full of things he doesn’t recognize, he 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 he 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 he 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 him to not only have an appetite, but also to be focused on the food in front of him.
  • 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 him negative associations with it. Instead, it can be especially helpful to make sure he sees you enjoying the new food, which may encourage him to take that first nibble. You may decide to cut the food into fun shapes, or make a design on his plate to make it seem more appealing. If he 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 he 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 he won’t touch today very well may be his new favorite tomorrow!

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