When you child starts to eat solid foods, you may come to find that they are picky eaters. This is pretty normal for babies and toddlers, so you don’t have to worry just yet about your child becoming a lifelong picky eater. There are some ways to combat picky eating and parents everywhere have developed strategies to help their babies and toddlers learn to accept and eventually eat food they initially disdain.

1. Gently but Consistently Introduce New Foods

Toddlers and babies just starting to eat solid foods need to be introduced to the foods at least 10-15 times before they start to like or accept them. This means that if you’re introducing your baby or toddler to mashed potatoes for the first time and they absolutely hate it, it’s not because they don’t like the food. It’s just new and they may not enjoy the texture.

Introduce mashed potatoes consistently and after a while they may come to enjoy it and accept the new texture. However, if you force your child to eat the new foods in a brusque and aggressive way, like telling them that they can’t have anything else until they finish their mashed potatoes, you’re just encouraging them to hate the food even more.

2. See if it’s a Matter of Texture
 It’s ok not to like certain foods and you need to be accepting of your toddler’s taste just like you expect your spouse to be accepting of your dislike of certain foods. If your toddler doesn’t like mashed potatoes, try potato wedges instead. If they like the wedges, then maybe it’s the texture they don’t like. Try the same test with applesauce and apple slices.

However, you need to make sure you’re not becoming a personal line cook for your child. You can’t personalize every meal just because they don’t like certain foods. Their tastes haven’t solidified yet so the foods they don’t like now may change. To try and get them acclimatized to “mushy” foods they may not like because of the texture, give them something to dip into the foods. For applesauce, this could be a gram cracker. For mashed potatoes, it could be something like carrot sticks or some other type of crunchy vegetable or savory cracker.

3. Let Your Child Explore Their Food and Help Prepare Their Plate
Some children are picky eaters because they aren’t familiar with foods or because they want to feed themselves. Encourage your child to smell, taste, or even touch new foods they aren’t sure about to help them get used to the new menu options. Also, allow your child to help arrange their own plate. This includes asking your child where they would like certain foods on their plate. It doesn’t mean asking them how much of certain foods they want because they will obviously not try the foods that don’t look appealing.

Source: Getz, L. (2009, September). No peas for me! — helping parents combat kids’ picky eating behaviors. Today's Dietition, 11, 40.

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