Solution #5: Keep Trying: Keep Trying

“I don’t like it [today]!” doesn’t mean “I won’t like it ever!” Remember, it takes many, many exposures to a food before your child might like it (upwards of 15 times). Food neophobia, or a fear of trying new foods, is a natural phase of childhood development—one that most kids outgrow in time. It’s important to know that “this is normal” but also have a plan for navigating this challenging time with your child.

Some simple steps you can take:

 1) Leverage Gateway Foods

Gateway Foods are your culinary keystones—one of the secrets to getting your kids to branch out from a narrow stable of vegetables. Each child will have their own set of Gateway Foods, so it’s critical to figure out which ones work best for your kids. In our house, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, carrots, peas, and green beans serve as our Gateway Foods. Prepare Gateway Foods in a new way to build the habit of trying familiar favorites in a new way. Then pair your Gateway Foods with a new food—Blueberry + Mango = Blueberry Mango Salad or Peas + Chickpeas = Sweet Pea Hummus. Check out my book, 52 New Foods Challenge  for a detailed plan.

2) Use the Work-Your-Way Up Strategy

When making changes, everyone needs time to adjust. Shifting to whole grain flour is an important step, for example, but try to do it in one fell swoop and you’re likely to fail. Instead, slowly shift the balance. This week, replace ¼ of the refined flour in your recipes. A few weeks later, shift to ½ and so on until you’re all the way there. This strategy can also be applied to rice. Small steps. Big changes.

3) Try a Veggie Course

Serve your colors first and you’ll notice a big boost in veggie intake at your table. Serve carbs first and the reverse holds true. The Veggie Course works particularly well on busy weeknights. When preparing dinner, cook the veggies first, serve them up, and let your kids eat their colors while you’re finishing the rest of the meal. Then serve your protein and grains, and enjoy your colorful family meal—together.

There are many more solutions in my book, but these few should get you started. As you venture forward in your own real food journey, I’ll leave you with this thought:

“The 52 New Foods Challenge is not about being perfect. It’s about constantly working to make improvements, experimenting, and enjoying the journey together. Regardless of where we stand on the food spectrum, we all have work to do and each small step moves us in the right direction. In the end, success is if you learn something new, feel more creative and open to experimentation, and have fun exploring together along the way. That’s healthy.” – Jennifer Tyler Lee, The 52 New Foods Challenge

Published on: November 07, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Jennifer Tyler Lee
Jennifer Tyler Lee is the author of The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year (Penguin Random House/Avery 2014) and the creator of the award-winning series of healthy eating games, Crunch a Color®.
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Recent Comments

I need help! My almost 9 yr old will not eat any fruit or veggies! I have begged the pediatricians for help. They shrug it off as no big deal. I have been concerned about him for years. He has bad allergies, and is prone to athletes foot and peeling of the fingers. I believe his problem is food aversion and I am not sure how to get him the nutrition he needs.


I came to this morning to find his article on introducing new foods 20 times and instead found this one, right on the front page. The reason for my search: my son finally tried blueberries and raspberries. He has life threatening food allergies so is very cautious and anxious about new foods, so I do not push him, but rather set the options in front of him every so often, gently asking if he’d like to try something new. I could barely contain my excitement when he said yes last week — and then ate a handful of each berry.

We live on the cold East Coast so this new berry habit will be expensive, but I’m grateful to have two new colorful foods in his diet. Thank you, thank you, for the encouragement.