If you have a picky eater at home, you aren’t alone. Nearly 50 percent of parents would say one of their children is a picky eater—and it can be even more difficult when you’re trying to introduce new or “strange” foods from your local post.
While U.S. History Abroad is all about giving your child fun and engaging American history courses, I know that there is so much more to their education—sometimes it’s the food on their plates!
Living at a new post comes with a lot of changes, their diets might be one of them. Not every child is going to be willing to try harees in Oman, or kimchi in Korea. I remember trying to get my youngest to eat Borscht in Russia, it was no easy feat!
Here are some of the things I’ve felt helpful (and a few tips I’ve picked up from around the internet) in reducing some mealtime stress and getting your picky eater to try something new.
Acknowledge their independence
Depending on your child’s age, you might see her try to assert her independence a bit more. Saying no to food is one of the ways she might be doing it, and that’s perfectly normal developmental behavior. Instead of forcing her to eat something she’s saying no to, allow her the freedom to make some of her own food choices. If you know you’ll be serving a new food item for dinner, let her to choose the side so she feels like she’s still making her own decisions.
Get them involved in the kitchen
Sharing the meal-prep responsibilities with your kids will give them a more positive attitude toward the foods they’re going to eat. More than likely, they’ll be proud of the work they did in the kitchen and be more willing to eat it once it’s on the plate.
It’s easier to get a child to taste a new food, rather than eat it. Big portions can be overwhelming, so start small. You can encourage him to try a different food by giving him a small portion and saying something like, “This should be easy! Just two (or three) bites and you’re done!” As you serve the new food more and more, you can increase the serving amount. Plus, if he happens to like it, he can always as for seconds.
Typically, it takes kids about 10-15 tries before they accept a new food. That’s a lot! And it’ll require some patience. Keep offering the new dish (in small portions, of course) until you wear them down.
Scale back on snacks
If your child is hungry when it comes time for dinner (or breakfast or lunch), then he’ll be less likely to resist the food that’s on his plate. Limit the snacks and drinks throughout the day on days when you know you’ll be serving something different. He’ll be more receptive to trying a new food if he’s truly hungry when it’s time to eat.
Offer non-food rewards
Using non-food rewards, like stickers or “points,” can go a long way in motivating your child to try new foods. Even something as simple as praising her for being adventurous can help change her attitude about a food she said she disliked or wouldn’t try.
Eat with them
Sometimes the best way to get kids to do something is leading by example. Make sure you’re sitting down and eating with your children when you’re serving a new food. You can’t expect them to eat something if you won’t!
Invite over an adventurous eater
While it’s important to model how you want your child to eat, no one can have a bigger influence on him than his friends. If he has any friends who grew up in your post country, then invite them over when you’re serving up a local cuisine. If your child sees his friend chowing down, he’ll be less afraid of the new food and more willing to try it. After all, if his friends like it, it can’t be all that bad.
Let them use all their senses
This one is difficult for most parents, but hear me out. The more familiar a child gets with his food, the better chance you have at getting him to eat it. Suppress you gag reflex and let him play with his food a little—if he sniffs it, breaks it apart, or shuffles it around his plate, at least he’s getting used to it.
One thing at a time
Serve only one new food item at a time. You can pair the new food up with one or two other items you know she loves and that she’ll eat. This makes the plate less scary and the new food more approachable.
Rotate new foods
Sometimes you just have to train your kid to try new foods. Get her into the habit of eating something different every day. Offer a new item today, but let her know she can have an old favorite tomorrow. The day after that, she can choose what she’ll eat, then you’ll go back to the new food on the next day. This keeps her away from building inflexible eating habits and getting too comfortable with specific foods.
Make it fun
You’ve probably noticed, kids like to have fun! Trying making the new food seem fun and exciting, rather than scary or weird. If there’s no way to jazz up the dish, then make the meal feel lighthearted. Keep a conversation going by asking them questions or telling funny stories; if your child is having fun at the table, they might not even notice what’s on their plate.
How do you get your child to try new foods? Comment below or share your tips with me (and the rest of our U.S. History Abroad community) on Facebook!