Encourage Adventurous Eating

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urlOriginally posted here.

Use these tips and your child may finally eat his broccoli!

Be patient. A typical toddler needs multiple exposures to a new food before he’ll risk tasting it – and 10 to 20 tastes before he actually likes it. So put the food on the table and let him decide if he wants to try it. Offer a variety of foods – like a main dish, rice or bread, a vegetable and/or fruit, and some milk – so there’s something he’ll want to eat. If he still won’t try the “new” food after ten exposures, take it out of rotation for six months or so.

Cut back on portions. A toddler’s stomach is the size of his fist, and he’s growing only one-tenth as much as he did as a baby, so he likely needs less food than you think. Dainty portions are also more appetizing. A few spoonfuls will appeal more to your child’s natural curiosity.

Involve your child. He’ll be more interested in eating the final product. Ask, “Should we have green beans or broccoli?” But don’t offer too many options – he might feel confused. Share kitchen duty, too. Have him tear the lettuce for a salad or pour ingredients. At the grocery store, invite him to pick a new fruit to try or to select a different colored veggie every week.

Get creative. Try presenting foods in new and fun ways:

Set the bar. Have a salad-bar night at home with lots of cut-up veggies so your child can create his own combination.

Make art. Give your child a pita as a base, and have him decorate it with a face: olive eyes, tomato ears, carrot nose, and green-bean smile.

Rename it. Call broccoli “tiny trees,” baby carrots “logs rolling across a plate,” or banana slices “banana wheels.”

Ditch plates. Use an ice cube tray or a muffin tin to serve small portions of colorful foods, or put chicken or tuna salad in an ice cream cone.

Roll it up. Instead of making sandwiches, try rolling some lunch meat and cheese slices in a tortilla, or some turkey around a mozzarella stick.

Stick it. Thread strawberries, banana chunks, and apple slices onto wooden skewers with blunt ends. Or put bite-sized food on toothpicks so your child can “sample” everything.

Add flavor. Kids have delicate taste buds, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy flavorful food. In fact, with their naturally sensitive palates, children really notice when something tastes good. So toss some garlic or olives with pasta sauce, use ginger in a chicken dish, or sprinkle cinnamon on cooked carrots.

Appeal to her toddler ego. Grab a veggie off her plate, say “Mine!” and eat it. Your child may just eat one herself in protest. If she has an older sibling, say, “I see you’re not eating your chicken. Mind if I give it to your brother?” Your child’s competitive urge might kick in, and she’ll try some for herself.

Be sneaky. What kids don’t know won’t hurt them and in this case, it’ll be good for them!

  • Puree cooked peas, carrots, or peppers, then mix into pasta sauce. (Or just add some baby-food veggies.)
  • Substitute half whole-wheat flour for white flour when making baked goods.
  • Mash up cooked cauliflower and add to mashed potatoes.
  • When heating up a can of cream-based soup, substitute milk for water.
  • Add shredded zucchini or carrots to quick bread or muffin batter.
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