Cascadian Farm Organic | Our Farm | Farm Blog | How to Get Your Kids to Try New Foods
How to Get Your Kids to Try New Foods
Shaina Olmanson

We're a family dinner family even on nights when one sibling is out of the house for sports or a parent has a work meeting that runs late. Because we eat together I know exactly the moment when a new food or a different dish has been rejected. There are questions, "Is that what we're eating for dinner?" There are statements, "That does not look good for me." There are sometimes even whines, "Do I have to eat it?" 

It's a scene that probably sounds familiar, one that is repeated at dinner tables often when small children are involved, but the question here is how can we reduce the frequency of these new food struggles? Below are some of the ways I try to alleviate conflict around new foods.

1.    Take them shopping.
I know so many parents who escape to the grocery store alone. We all chase that elusive moment of solace. Still, that grocery store or farmer's market trip is the perfect place to start conversations about food for your kids. They see as you choose the apples for snacks and the green beans for dinner, and having them help you pick out the perfect peach or the best broccoli is the first step in getting them to recognize that food when it appears on their plate at dinner. It's the perfect time to show them an artichoke and then talk to them about how you'll prepare it for dinner that week.

2.    Get them involved in the decisions.
As you are thinking about what to prepare for a meal, consider giving your children a voice. When possible, ask them if they'd rather have green beans or cauliflower. When there are options, let them have a say before you're sitting down to eat. 

3.    Bring your kids into the kitchen.
As the food is prepared, I always try to give my children a task so they've had a hand in preparing the food with me. It's a great life skill for them to learn, but the difference really comes when they proudly announce at the dinner table that they helped cut carrots for the soup or they cracked eggs for omelets. Having that ownership over the food being served and them being familiar with how it got to the table is a wonderful self-esteem booster, but it also increases the chances that they'll give the dish more than just an skeptical glance.

4.    Eat together.
Studies are released all the time proclaiming the merits of the family meal, whether it is at dinnertime or breakfast or whenever you can manage. They talk of how family meals reduce teen smoking, help teens eat better, reduce depression, and more. Another benefit of eating together is role modeling. As you fill your plate with good food it becomes a natural thing for them, and if there are siblings, seeing everyone doing the same thing reinforces this behavior. 

5.    Rinse and repeat.
Remember that it can take multiple introductions (15-20) with a new food before kids develop a taste for it, so don't give up easily, and work that food into rotation over time. Mix up how you prepare it, trying different methods of cooking to see if they don't accept one more readily than the next. 

None of these things is a guaranteed recipe for 100% success. Remember that we're dealing with small people with their own thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Working in these tips repeatedly until they're habitual will help alleviate the everyday stress of whether dinnertime will be a struggle, and the more consistently you do them, the more excited your children will be about the food they eat.

Shaina Olmanson is the freelance food writer, author, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to educate their children about the food we eat. Food for My Family has been named one of the Top 100 Mom Food Blogs by Babble.com for the past four years. Shaina is the author of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines. She lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, an urban oasis surrounded by farms and fields of green.

seal