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building on what your child already likes, bridges for picky eaters

Posted by on Mar 19, 2013 in Blog Posts | 4 comments

SuperSmoothie-LowFat-Peach-10oz_350x270I talk to parents about this all the time, but had my own recent reminder…

If your child likes a food, find something similar to offer. If it’s a flavor, a sauce, or a food prep technique, be mindful of using or including that familiar characteristic, making that link to new foods… (This notion of “chaining” or “bridging” similar tastes is common in the selective eating and sensory world.) Don’t forget that all the bridging won’t work if you are still battling over eating. Key is to offer the food in a pleasant, neutral way, as part of meals and snacks. And avoid praise if your child tries it…

Yogurt: M is not a breakfast food kind of kid. She recently started eating peach Fage 2% Greek yogurt, refusing other flavors that I enjoy like blueberry and strawberry. I have also offered Stonyfield Smoothies before, the flavor I like, which is the mixed berry. I’d be happy to include more yogurt and the smoothie drinks to help round out breakfasts and snacks on the go.

So, it finally hit me. I’ll try offering peach flavored smoothie, and I can enjoy them if she doesn’t. I offered the smoothie with snack the other day. She tried a sip, said, “Ew, I don’t like it!”  and walked away. Ten seconds later, she tried another sip. Then drank about half the bottle.

I made no comment, and I enjoyed the other half with my lunch the next day.

M is overall an adventurous eater, but this scenario helps illustrate a few things:

  1. the initial reaction is usually negative to a new food
  2. wait… don’t rationalize, or try to sell the smoothie (as in, “But the peach is like the yogurt you like, you’ll like it!)
  3. familiar flavors can be the bridge to new foods

Have you seen this work?


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  1. Twistie

    I have actually seen this multiple times in trying to help Mr. Twistie become a somewhat more adventurous eater. For instance, when there were suddenly turnips in the CSA box one week, I was nervous about how to fix them. I didn’t want them to go to waste, and I was trying to help Mr. Twistie get over food fears. What I wound up doing was making a half potato-half turnip gratin, since I know Mr. Twistie loves gratins and loves potatoes. There were also caraway seeds, which Mr. Twistie loves. He gave it a go right away. He loved it. Now if he sees there are turnips in the box, he smiles because he knows there’s likely to be delicious gratin.

    On the other hand, even roasting it in a coating of Indian-inspired spices (he adores Indian foods) couldn’t convince him to try cauliflower. Ah well, all the more for me. But the next time cauliflower shows up in the box it’s out with the roasting pan and the turmeric, and we’ll give it another go. If he tries it out, fantastic. If he doesn’t, well, I love Indian food and cauliflower, so I’ll be a happy, greedy camper.

  2. Dawn

    I would love it you would write something about feeding when the budget is tight. For example, if the budget only allows four porkchops for a family of four then they may not be able to put on a plate family style because then someone might get two and someone else will be left wanting. And it can be hard to budget for new foods to try because there isn’t the budget to throw away food.

    • katja

      yes. I hint around at this, and mention it here and there, but maybe time to do something more. It is harder. 4 pork chops? one each. Limiting the pricier food is OK. Filling up on the less pricey stuff is great too. I’ll mull it over. Right now, editing the ebook!