It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

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12 Everyday Opportunities for Exploring New Foods

Growing a Good Taster means encouraging your children to explore new foods with all of their senses...all the time.

Here are some ideas to get you going. (If you're new to this series, start here.)

When Cooking

  • Does this soup need more garlic?
  • Taste this yogurt and tell me if you think Daddy will like it.

At Mealtime

  • Let's put some fruit on the table that matches the color of the tablecloth. Should we use the red or the green grapes?
  • Can you find the single pea that I put in your mashed potatoes?

When You're Out & About

  • Can you smell the bread baking? What do you think that bread would taste like?
  • Look at this package of fruit strips. What does the package make you think is inside? Let's find out if you're right.

In the Grocery Store

  • Let's buy 2 different pears. Which do you think will be the crunchiest? The sweetest? Why?
  • Let's taste those samples!

At a Restaurant

  • Look at this black bean. It came with my taco. Let's squish it with a fork (or your finger).
  • Does this chicken taste like the kind I make at home?

During Playtime

  • Let's make beards with this whipped cream.
  • Which do you think will roll faster: the frozen pea or the thawed pea? Let's find out.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Charts: Another Way to Encourage Multiple Tastings

You know it takes multiple exposures for kids to accept a new food. But one problem parents encounter is that children sometimes refuse to taste the same food more than once.

Or if they do it once, they won't do it fifteen times. You already know that rewards rock.

This is where a chart comes in handy.  (If you're new to this series, start here.)

You've already explained to your kids that the same food doesn't always taste the same.

Foods are different when they are:

  • Cooked with a different recipe.
  • Prepared by different chefs.
  • At different phases of ripening.

Now, explain that our taste buds don't always taste things the same way. And chart the results.

Think science experiment. Use either a 5 point rating system from "Really Yucky" to "Really Yummy," use Thumbs Up, Thumbs Middle, Thumbs Down, or use different descriptors. Read Two Hundred Tantalizing Terms to Move Beyond, "I don't like it."

It doesn't matter what rating system you choose.

1. Acknowledge your children's experiences:

  • "I know you didn't really like this last time." or 
  • "Last time you said this was too sweet."

2. Discuss the fact that people's opinions fluctuate.

  • "Did you know our taste buds change too. Especially when we're just growing."
  • "Sometimes food tastes good because we are in a good mood and bad because we are in a bad mood. It's not always about the food that changes. We change too."

3. Talk about how fun and interesting it would be to see these fluctuations in action!

  • "Let's keep track of what you think on this chart. We can watch your opinions go up and down. I wonder if they will go up more often or down more often!"
  • "Let's keep track of all your senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste on the chart."

~Changing the conversation from nutriiton to habits.~

Read the next installment in the series.


Convincing Your Kids to Try that New Food Again...and AGAIN!

One of the biggest challenges parents face is getting their kids to try a new foods multiple times.

If it takes 10-14 exposures before a child will like a new food, the million-dollar question is, "How do you get kids to try the same food that many times?"  

  • It's easier to get kids to taste a new food multiple times than it is to get them to eat that new food multiple times. In fact, if you think about it, kids won't eat food that don't like so expecting them to eat a food multiple times when they dislike it is crazy thinking. That's why we're Growing Good Tasters. Eating comes later.
  • Rewards create the right incentive for multiple exposures. Especially if you let your kids think they're tricking you when you let them taste the same food over and over. Wink, Wink. 

I wrote about how to use rewards last week. If you missed it, click here.

In this post I want to encourage you to give rewards a chance.

REWARDS Rock! And rewards are way more important than modeling. Here's one study.

If you are new to this series, The Step-by-Step, Blow-by-Blow Guide to Introducing New Foods that's Guaranteed to Change How Your Kids Eat, start here.

Researchers asked 136 parents to offer their child a small piece of a disliked (but not hated) vegetable each day for 14 days.

The parent-child pairs were divided into five groups to find out which worked best: modeling, repeated exposure, rewards, or some combination of the three.

The five groups:

  1. Repeated Exposure
  2. Modeling paired with Repeated Exposure
  3. Rewards (stickers) paired with Repeated Exposure
  4. Modeling, paired with Rewards and Repeated Exposure
  5. Nothing. These folks were the control group.

Group 3 (Rewards (stickers) paired with Repeated Exposure) wins!!

Rewards make all the difference.

Groups 3 and 4 experienced more tastings and more improvement in liking than any of the other groups.

So why do I say Group 3 wins? 

  • Both Groups 3 and 4 offered Rewards and Repeat Exposure. The only difference is Modeling in Group 4.
  • The results were statistically similar for  Groups 3 and 4.
  • Therefore, adding modeling to rewards and repeat exposure didn't improve the results.  

Rewards improve your kids' acceptance to repeat exposure. Repeat exposure improves their liking. Modeling is extraneous.

 It's as simple as that!

And one more thing: Praising kids works better than remaining neutral.

So the advice to remain silent/neutral while your kids do the hard work is ill-advised. In this study, parents who praised had better results than parents who were neutral.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Read the next installment in the series.

Source: Holley, C. E., E. Haycraft, and C. Farrow. 2015. “'Why Don't You Try it Again?' a Comparison of Parent Led, Home Based Interventions Aimed At Increasing Children's Consumption of a Disliked Vegetable.” appetite 87: 215-22.