Recently, one of our What a Good Eater! parents told us:
“I serve the same foods to little Sammy just about every day. He eats yogurt, cheese, and fruit for lunch daily. I do it because I know he’ll eat it. If I take time to prepare something new, I’m just not sure if he’ll eat it or not.”
We all know this predicament way too well: Sammy and his mom are stuck in a ‘food rut’. We’ve all been there!
The last thing any of us want to do is take the time to prepare a wonderful meal, only to discover that your child won’t eat it. Time is precious, and it’s easier to serve something predictable. But if your child is regularly exposed to different foods, flavors, and textures, he will be much more accepting of the novelty! (That’s the kicker.) He will eat a variety of foods because this is the norm for him rather than the exception.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may find yourself in a food rut. This usually happens around the 12- or 15-month mark. We’ve been guilty of food ruts with our kids, on a number of occasions. Amy’s son loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They are easy for Amy to prepare, he looks forward to eating them, and she knows he’ll eat them! So out of ease, she began serving them to him frequently for lunch. Too frequently, perhaps, because when she tried to serve something new for lunch on occasion, she was met with resistance. “No, no fish. Peanut butter and jelly!” her son would demand. On the other end of the spectrum, serving the same foods over and over again may result in “taste fatigue” for some children, where the child becomes tired of eating that same food over and over.
Here are 4 tips on how to break out of a food rut with your kids:
- Don’t deny children their favorite food. Taking their number-one choice away completely will only cause upset for both you and your baby. If your toddler of 15 months seems to want to eat only yogurt and fruit, allow him to continue eating it—just not at every meal. Try saving it as an afternoon snack, or serve it a few times a week versus every single day. Make it something that he can look forward to.
- Don’t make your child’s favorite food the default. If you try to serve your toddler a food and she refuses it, and then you pull out the old standby food of what she likes, she’ll catch on in no time and refuse everything but her favorite. (You know how smart she is!) She’ll bank on the fact that you’re going to eventually switch and feed her old faithful, so beware of doing that too much. Remember, it’s OK if babies miss a meal here and there. If you have any serious concerns, discuss them with your pediatrician.
- Use the “three choices” rule. Provide a three-sectioned plate consisting of three foods in small quantities to start. Make sure at least one food is something that you know your toddler will eat and enjoy. For example, if you know your toddler loves strawberries, place a few bite-size pieces of strawberries in one section on the plate and two other options, such as chicken and broccoli, in the other compartments. Your toddler may dive in and go straight for the strawberries, and that’s OK! If she asks for more strawberries without touching the other two foods, encourage her to at least try the chicken and broccoli first before giving her more.
- Serve a variation of their favorite food. If your child is stuck on pears, for example, try sprinkling just a dash of ground cinnamon or nutmeg on top. This opens their palate and gets them used to different flavors, not to mention the health benefits herbs and spices can add. If your child is glued to blueberries right now, try making a delicious blueberry smoothie: add a little spinach and banana to it and serve it as a mid-morning or afternoon snack! If your toddler’s food of the month is cheese, try including it in a sandwich or melting it on top of their dinner meat. Creating a variation of their favorite food is a great compromise; it allows your little one to enjoy his favorite food while still being open to trying new things.
Is your child currently in a food rut, and if so, what is their favorite food? Do you have any additional ideas to help kids escape their food rut? Tell us in the comments section and help other parents who are also battling this problem! If you enjoyed this post, sign up to receive our newsletter here, and look out for our upcoming baby and toddler cookbook What a Good Eater! expected in March 2016!
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