Serving new foods to children

August 15, 2000

Serving new foods to children

"What should I do when my child refuses to try the new dishes that I serve?"

"Should I offer only foods that I know my child will eat?"


These questions show the confusion and frustration parents often have about getting children to try new foods.

Parents need to realize that reluctance to try new foods is a normal stage of development in young children, most often seen between the ages of 2 and 3. Children in this age group who refuse to try new foods are behaving as expected and should not be viewed as "picky eaters."

Even though they may initially refuse to eat new foods, it's still important to offer them on a regular basis. The greater the variety of foods in a child's diet, the more likely he is to get the nutrients he needs for proper growth and development.


Sometimes, the introduction of new foods can make mealtime unpleasant for both parents and children. Here are a few ideas to encourage your child to try new foods:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Timing is everything. Offer a new food when your child is hungry and rested. Provide a quiet time and limit snacks before meals.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Offer one new food at a time. Serving several new foods at once can overwhelm a child. Also, keep the serving size appropriate for the child's age.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Make it fun! Children like meals with familiar foods in different shapes and colors. Use this to get your child to try new and old foods prepared in different ways.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Serve a new food with favorite foods to encourage acceptance.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Set a good example. Children are very observant. Practice what you preach and eat the new food yourself.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Let your child explore the new food. Everyone remembers their mothers saying, "Don't play with your food!" However, if you allow your child to look at the food, touch it and smell it, eventually it may end up in his or her mouth.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Don't force your child to eat a new food. Also, don't use food as a reward. Both can make your child dislike certain foods even more. Negative experiences with food can have long-lasting effects.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new food may need to be served 10 to 15 times before a child accepts it.

Our eating habits often are rooted in childhood experiences. Use these ideas to nurture your child's experiences with new foods. The benefits of developing a positive attitude toward new foods can last a lifetime.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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