No picky eaters here! Raising children who are an adventurous eater can seem like a challenge, but these 8 simple steps that you can start implementing today will help you raise children who will easily try a variety of foods without the tears! This complete guide will tell you everything you need to know!
How Do I Raise A Good Eater?
Raising a good eater is key to making sure your little one doesn't become a picky eater. You only need 8 simple steps you can start implementing now.
1. Early Exposure
The earlier you can expose your kiddos to a variety of flavors, textures, ingredients, and cuisines, the better off their chances of becoming an adventurous eater and loving a wide variety of foods will be. During pregnancy and breastfeeding is awesome, but incorporating new flavors into your baby and toddler’s diet is key.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, kids do not need overly bland foods! While babies and toddlers do have twice the amount of taste buds as adults do, and are more sensitive to flavors, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy having flavors to begin with!
And whether you choose to make your own baby food, feed baby straight from your plate, or buy it from a store, there are so many awesome and flavorful choices! Every food is “kid friendly” if you let it be!
2. Serve a Variety
Giving your kids options of different foods is super important. I try to make sure each meal consists of a variety of different colors of food as well as foods from each “food group”. That way if they decide they don’t like curried chicken, they have a variety of other healthy options that will satisfy their tummies and keep them from going to bed hungry.
Divided plates with 3-5 spaces are my favorite meal time accessory, because it helps me remember to serve lots of different things!
3. Add Lots of Color
Pretty food looks more appetizing, right? While we know that a sea of brown food might taste good, it doesn't really look appetizing. People, and especially kids, eat with their eyes first.
So having a meal look appetizing is an important step to having your kids want to eat it! I am not telling you to grab the cookie cutters and turn every meal into a creative culinary scene that belongs on Instagram.
One way I love to add more color to a meal is to add fruit into the meal.
4. Keep Trying
Did you know your taste buds are replaced about every two weeks, and they are continually changing?! Just because something doesn’t go over well today doesn’t mean it will forever be a hated food. Keep trying!
Try new ways of preparing food (baked, grilled, poached, etc) and with different herbs and other ingredients to change the flavor and how it is presented. For the longest time I thought asparagus was utterly disgusting—because I had only ever had it simmered in water until it was mushy and tasted like grass. Then I had it grilled, and I discovered I LOVE it!
5. Don’t Impose Expectations
This one is soooo hard because the whole family needs to be on board. If you want your 4-year-old to eat broccoli, then Daddy (or someone else) can’t go on and on about how much they dislike broccoli. Those expectations go a long way.
Phrases like “I don’t think you will like this” or “You are going to LOVE this” set the stage for failure and mistrust. Allowing a child to make their own discoveries is important.
Focus on the health qualities of the food, how you used a new ingredient, where it comes from, or how it is made. Then, instead of your little sponge suddenly regurgitating someone else’s opinion about the food, they are more likely to feel curious and want to try it.
6. They Eat What You Eat
For the love of Pete, please stop being a short order chef!
Your job is NOT to make 4 different meals that cater exactly to everyone’s specific taste preferences so that everything is rainbows and sunshine. Your job is to nourish your family with a dinner you have lovingly prepared for them. It is then their responsibility to decide if they are going to eat it (whether or not they like it) or be hungry.
One Meal. No Alternatives.
I promise they won’t shrivel up and die because they don’t eat 100% of the food on their plate. Pinky Swear. And more often than not, they will eat. Have your family help you create your your meal plan (learn more about making meal planning easy here) so they have some input and get excited about what you are eating!
7. Ease Up
I know. It’s really easy to get uptight with dinner time rules. But the more rules you try to enforce, and the more micromanaging you do during dinner time (‘Take another bite’, ‘eat some chicken’, ‘don’t use so much ketchup’), the less enjoyable meal time becomes.
Think about it – do you like it when your boss or significant other stands over your shoulder and tells you exactly what to do during each and every movement you make? I’m going to guess no. And I’m going to guess it actually makes you really irritable, too.
Well, guess what? Your kid feels the same way. And everyone else at the table.
Don’t be a Dinner Dictator!
Relax and give your child the freedom to experience their dinner at their own pace while you talk about your days, laugh, and have a good time. Dinner can turn from feeling like a chore to a valued part of your day.
That’s not to say there aren’t rules – because obviously everyone needs to sit on their bottom and not stab their sibling with their fork or fling spaghetti on the ceiling. But turning down the dictoratorship will make a phenomenal impact on your meal time atmosphere.
8. No Bribery
There are totally times where bribery works. And I’m not going to be one of those parents who tells you to never bribe your kid – that is totally your decision. But the dinner table is one of those places where I hope you would use is sparingly.
By saying “I will give you an amazing dessert if you eat your dinner!” what you are actually teaching your kids is that the dinner you are serving is icky, gross, gag-worthy, and the only way they can choke it down is the thought of having a cookie at the end.
Instead try offering up something to dip that chicken into, taking family bites (Our favorite is “Everyone take a bite of chicken! Ready? 1 -2 -3!” Peer pressure is awesome…).
9. Get Them Involved
One of the absolute best things you can do on your journey to raise adventurous eaters is to get your kids involved in their meals. Give them some ownership of what they eat, and you will be astounded by what they do with it.
Growing a garden with your kids is one of my favorite ways to do this, but also having them help you pick out new recipes to try, picking out the produce at the grocery store, and assisting you in preparing dinner will not only give them a sense of pride in helping you, but it will also help foster responsibility, curiosity, and enjoyment in what they are doing.
What Tools Do I Need To Raise An Adventurous Eater?
In reality - nothing!
You can raise an adventurous eater with the things you already have in your cabinets and drawers.
However, if you want to get really serious about it, I do have some recommendations!
Tools For Raising Adventurous Eaters
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- Kid-Friendly Chopsticks - We have these and LOVE them! Not only are they super cute, but they are also dishwasher safe AND you can take them apart easily to clean, or when you no longer need the "kid" part. These are what my girls have learned to use chopsticks with and they use them better than most adults do!
- Real Dishes - Totally my personal opinion, but I think that for kids to feel like they are mature enough to eat real food, they need to have real dishes. Or at least dishes that aren't in shaped like a lion and have sparkle kitties all over them. The dishes shouldn't be distracting, because the point is the food, right? Anyway. We have two sets we love - These glass dishes (YES, I totally said GLASS! And no, we haven't lost a single one) by Duralex, and these RePlay recycled plastic sets which are better for babies and younger toddlers.
- Kid Safe Cooking Utensils are great for getting your kids in the kitchen without feeling like they might cut off their entire hand. No one wants that.
Eating should be an adventure – try new things, and have fun!