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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Stay and Play The best indoor playspace on the East Coast. Oh yeah, and it happens to be owned by my brother.

weelicious Great Recipes for Kids 


What Do You "Do" with Hungry?

How comfortable are you with hunger? Or more specifically, your child's hunger?

Not real hunger, as in starvation. Temporary hunger. Your answer to this question will determine a lot about how successfully you can introduce new foods at meals.

Quick Catch-Up

  • You've grown a good taster. This might have taken a few weeks. It might also take a few months.
  • You're ready to introduce new foods at meals, with the idea that possibly...just possibly, your child will actually eat what you serve.
  • Still, you ask your child to taste the new food...not with the proviso that "if you don't like it you don't have to eat it." That assumes eating and that assumption is pressure. Rather, you provide a teeny, tiny taste and say, "What do you think? Is it crunchy? Salty? Sweet? Ask anything but, "Do you like it?"
  • You have put something on the table that your child can be reasonably expected to eat. This ensures he won't starve.
  • You have used a backup. This really ensures that your child won't starve.

(If you're new to this series on introducing new foods, start here.)

Now, if your child doesn't eat...or doesn't eat enough...what do you do?

Nothing. This is why you have to be comfortable with your child's temporary hunger.

If you do anything—say, provide another alternative or beg, cajole or even bribe your child into eating more—you'll undermine your efforts. The message: Your hunger is powerful. Your hunger makes me jump. You don't really have to eat anything I've prepared because if I think you're hungry I'll prepare something else. 

When hunger is power the normal parent-child relationship is reversed: the kids hold the keys.

Set a schedule for meals and snacks. I call this the Eating Zones Rule.

And then stick to it. Your child has to have the freedom to choose not to eat before he'll have the power to choose to eat. 

This is different than starving out your kid. This is authoritative parenting in action.

You've put sufficient food down, and have created a reasonable meal and snack schedule, to know that your child has enough access to food—and food that she normally eats—to eat if she wants to.

For more, read The Upside of Hunger and Hunger vs Appetite.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Using a Backup to Ease the Way When Introducing New Foods

Introducing new foods at meals can be stressful because you want, maybe you need, your child to eat what you have prepared.

Well, maybe you did that before. But now that you have been following along with this step-by-step, blow-by-blow guide to introducing new foods, you know that expecting a child to eat new food is the problem. 

  • Unless you're child is an experienced taster, I don't recommend you introduce new foods at meals.
  • If you're child is comfortable tasting new foods, then introducing them at meals is fine.
  • However, don't change your expectations however. Even when new foods are introduced at meals, you should only expect your child to take a taste.

If you haven't yet grown a good taster than even if you say, "just take a taste," your child won't really taste the food. She'll just go through the motions to be a "good" child.

  • She'll  just put it in her mouth.
  • Swallow the food (if you're lucky).
  • Say she doesn't like it.
  • And move on to the food she really wants to eat.

(If you're new, start this series here.)

The key is reducing or eliminating pressure. That is what the BACKUP does. The backup is a legal "out."

In  my last post I suggested that you make sure there is always something on the table that your child can reasonably be expected to eat. Those alternate foods are a kind of backup.

The Backup is a single item that is not part of the meal but that your child can select to eat whenever he doesn't want you are serving. But it's not chosen after the rejection. And it's not chosen by negotiation.

The backup is a food that you (and hopefully your kids) have chosen when you're not at the table eating. It's one food. It's always the same.

After your child has indulged in the power of the backup, he'll start to eat the new food.

But only if he's an experienced taster and only if you don't put any pressure on him. Let the structure of the backup do its work.

1. The Backup must always be the same food.

The less negotiation, the less fighting. 

2. The Backup must always be available.

The backup needs to be on hand every time your child wants it. Otherwise you'll just end up negotiating what the backup will be that night.

3. The Backup must be nutritious.

That way you won't worry if (or should I say when?) your child chooses it every night for a week.

4. The Backup must be a no-cook item.

The point is to make your life easier, not harder.

5. The Backup must not be a preferred food.

You want your child to like, but not to love, the Backup so there is no incentive for her to repeatedly choose it over the main meal.

Potential Backup Foods 

  • Cottage Cheese. Click here to read how I used this backup in my own home.
  • Canned Chickpeas
  • Frozen Peas
  • Tofu
  • Plain yogurt

Foods you should never use as a Backup

  • PB&J or any sandwich
  • Cereal
  • Flavored Yogurt
  • Pizza, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, etc.

Got questions? Ask. 

 ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

Read the next installment in the series.


6 Steps for Successfully Introducing New Foods at MEALS!

So far we have been talking about how to Grow a Good Taster. But now...we're finally here! Introducing new foods at meals!

Kids have to learn to be comfortable exploring new foods before they'll eat them, so make sure you're not rushing things. 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is the fourth week in my step-by-step, blow-by-blow guide to introducing new foods that's guaranteed to change how your kids eat. If you're new, start here.

It's OK to introduce new foods at meals once your child is comfortable exploring new foods.

Don't try to introduce new foods at the table if your child is still a reluctant explorer. It will put too much stress and strain on the situation. This may take awhile. Be patient.

Here are the guidelines for introducing new foods at meals:

1) The rules are the same as they have been all along: Offer a teeny, tiny taste. Engage the senses. And, don't expect your child to eat new foods at meals.

Sounds counterproductive, I know. But it's the pressure that blows everything up.

2) Make sure there is something on the table that your child can reasonably be expected to eat.

It doesn't have to be a favorite. It shouldn't be a meal you've cooked just for your child. Think side-dishes: bread, rice, potatoes, green beans.

Reasonable is the key word here. Remember, though, that even favorites can get rejected.

3) Put all the food on the table at the start of the meal. Don't short-order chef another meal after your child refuses to eat.

If there is something on the table your child normally eats, there is no reason to ever make anything else. It's important for kids to learn to make do.

When "normally-eaten" foods are rejected, your child is emmersed in a control struggle. Respond and you'll make it worse. Let the structure do its work.

4) Use the Rotation Rule: Don't serve the same food two days in a row.

This applies to side dishes too. The Rotation Rule reinforces the idea of "different" instead of "same." "Different" lays the foundaiton for new food acceptance.  Read more on the Rotation Rule here.

5) Consider using a healthy dessert to fill in the gaps.

Fruit. Cheese and crackers. Plain yogurt with a dollop of jam or honey. Read more on how to use desserts here.

6. Use a back up.

More on these tomorrow.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Read the next installment in the series.