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Creative Ways for Parents to Get Their Kids to Try New Foods

how to overcome picky eating overhead shot of a young child eating in a high chair Middle Class Dad

If your kids had their way, they’d order chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for dinner every night. Occasionally, they might liven things up a bit with a pizza.

However, as a parent, you know how vital it is for your child to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Adding variety is ideal for increasing their intake of essential phytonutrients and antioxidants — but what happens when they balk and refuse? Try one of these ten creative ways to get your kids to try new foods.

1. Have a Theme Night

Think back to when you decorated your child’s bedroom. You might have selected a wizarding theme or something with mystical unicorns. Why not bring the same imaginativeness to mealtimes by transforming dinner into a special event?

For example, if your child turns up their nose at anything but fish sticks, get them to broaden their horizons by having an “under the sea” themed night. They might discover that they adore shrimp scampi, and you’ll love knowing that you slash your cardiovascular disease risk by eating seafood more frequently.

2. Use Cartoons

What’s your child’s favorite cartoon? Pay attention to the show — you may discover a way to get your little one to try new foods.

For example, you might introduce carrots by telling your kid they are eating like Bugs Bunny. Even a sticker featuring a beloved character could inspire them to try kiwi fruit or mango. Plus, who can forget the old school Popeye who grew mighty muscles on a steady diet of spinach?

3. Play Hide the Veggie

Does your child pitch a fit about eating zucchini? What if you bake it into a delicious brownie or cake?

You can sneak hidden vegetables in tons of desserts — carrot cake, anyone? You can slip these into your child’s lunchbox, and rest assured that they won’t trade them with their friends.

4. Mix It In

You don’t have to always run a Mata Hari-style mission to disguise good-for-you foods inside desserts to get your child to try them. Sometimes, simple additions and swaps can do the trick — they reduce the fear factor by reassuring your child they’ll still get the food they like.

For example, if your little one adores oatmeal with raisins, why not try substituting dried blueberries or cranberries instead? If they dig into broccoli no problem, try adding some butternut squash and sweet potatoes into a roasted veggie blend as a dinner side?

5. Change the Venue

Sometimes, changing the location where you eat is enough to inspire your kids to try something new. For example, they might ask to sample a bit off your plate when you go out to eat.

However, you don’t have to drop a ton on eating out to improve your child’s culinary tastes. With summer here, why not set up a folding table if you don’t have a picnic version and dine alfresco? Such a location is perfect for messy meals like sloppy joes — perhaps try a jackfruit version instead of beef?

6. Think Teeny-Tiny

Think about the last time you tried food that made you hesitate, like sushi. You probably didn’t order multiple California rolls the first time — you tried a small portion first.

Please allow your child to do the same thing and remove the threat component. Instead of refusing to let them leave the table until they eat their snow peas, praise them for trying just one — even if they determine they don’t like the taste.

7. Get the Kids in the Kitchen

Your child will be more likely to try a meal they played a role in preparing. Whenever feasible, let your kids in the kitchen with you while you prepare dinner.

Give them age-appropriate tasks. The youngest helpers can wash fruits and vegetables, while older children can master a simple muffin batter.

8. Grow a Garden

Does your child flat-out refuse to eat their green beans? What if they came from a vine that your little one grew themselves in your patio container garden?

Summer is here, and there’s still plenty of time to get in the garden.  Plant some varieties that you want your child to try and let them participate in the weeding and watering.

9. Go on a Field Trip

Another way to give your child ownership over their meals is to take them shopping with you. Go on a field trip to your local farmer’s market. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by shopping locally, and you can do so even more if you and your little one ride your bikes to the venue.

Assign your child a portion of your shopping list — preferably one containing fresh fruits and vegetables. Let them locate these items in the store. They might be more willing to try what they procured themselves.

10. Think Presentation

Finally, keep the presentation of foods in mind. If you normally cut your child’s sandwich in half, make little triangles or squares when you swap out their stereotypical iceberg lettuce for a slice of kale.

Many children adore tiny containers. Look for Tupperware containers in various sizes to fill their lunchbox with pint-sized and unique treats.

Get Your Kids to Try New Foods These 10 Creative Ways

As a parent, you want your child to eat a well-balanced diet, including introducing them to new foods. Get them to expand their culinary horizons with the ten tips above.

Jeff Campbell