“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