I’ll admit, I’ve fallen back on the old school strategies for getting my toddlers to eat new foods. I’ve threatened:
“If you don’t finish your peas, no ice cream!”
I’ve been sneaky:
“No, I promise I did not just grate an apple into the cookie batter!”
“If you just taste it I will play Candyland with you.”
I’ve sounded really convincing:
“mmm these brussel sprouts are amazing!”
But I decided to change my game plan the other night.
I was determined to get our children to eat new foods without manipulating them.
Vegetables were the only food I cooked. I didn’t mash them or hide them in anything. I grabbed all the produce in my fridge and pantry.
I chopped it all in big chunks, threw all the pieces on an oven tray lined with waxed paper, and drizzled it with olive oil (the good kind), oregano, and salt.
I also had two eggplants so I figured that they could go in the oven, too.
I sliced the eggplants in half, ran a knife through them a few times, and topped them with oregano, lemon juice, chopped garlic, and honey (toddlers love honey).
While the veggies baked, I threw anything that seemed like salad into a bowl.
When the vegetables were soft (after about 30 minutes on a medium high temperature), the end result was very colorful.
My toddlers did not eat everything on their plates (I’m not superwoman or magic, after all), but that’s not the point.
The point is that SEEING new food is the first step to EATING new food. All the pieces on this plate are recognizable, so even if they didn’t eat everything, they saw what each vegetable looked like and will remember them next time. So much of picky toddler eating is about them not wanting to take risks. They’ve got to make friends with the food first, then they’ll go out on a limb and maybe pick it up.
The other great thing about this dinner is that my toddlers could practice cutting the potato, carrot, or avocado because they were nice and soft. Sometimes, even after saying, “Yuck I don’t want that,” my kids will help me cut my food, then accidentally get a taste somehow. Sometimes they even change their minds completely and decide they want to try it, as long as I do a really good job of acting like I don’t care (which usually requires that I actually not care.)
In the end, four-year-old Gianina ate only sweet potato. She picked out every piece of sweet potato and mashed it with her fork, saying that she is a baby so she has to eat mashed foods.
Maybe next time she’ll pick out all of the pieces of corn from the salad. It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as she is trying new foods because she wants to explore and be brave. I know that she is smart enough not to go hungry.
It’s my job to present a wide variety healthy food in a tasty way. It’s their job to decide what to eat.
What about you? How do you get your toddlers to try new foods?
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