Free Resource Sheets to Teach Healthy Eating Habits


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« Crackers & Juice, Chips & Soda | Main | Solving the Toddler Food Jag »

Two Hundred Tantalizing Terms to Move Beyond, "I Don't Like It"

When it comes to getting kids to try new foods, here are three things I know for sure:  

  1. Kids often don't say what they mean. "I don't like it," and "No thank you" often mean "That looks weird," or "I'm not in the mood."  
  2. When forced to taste a new food, kids often don't really taste it. They invoke, "I don't like it" or "No thank you" the moment the food hits their mouth as a way of getting out of eating.
  3. The key to introducing new foods is to get children to really consider what they're tasting. You want to avoid a straight "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" assessment so everything gets a second (third, fourth, fifth...)chance.

One of my readers, Tricia, decided to implement a BRILLIANT rule when her 3 year old suddenly developed a selective streak. 

If you don't want to eat something you've got to say 2 words about it. The words have to be descriptive and not judgmental.

This rule is brilliant because it: 

  • Encourages real tasting.
  • Gives kids an honest out.
  • Helps you learn more about what is going on in your kids' heads.
  • Teaches kids about food and cooking.
  • Builds their vocabularies. 
  • Sometimes even gets kids to eat whatever you've served...

Tricia writes: 

One night my 3 year old son was objecting to the acorn squash.  I said, "You don't have to eat it if you don't want to, but taste it and give me 5 words."  He counted out his fingers, looked at his plate, and said, "I guess I'll eat it instead."  I laughed.

Here is Tricia's amazing list. (My favorite words are marked in bold.)

1) Temperature

Icy, Cold, Chilly, Cool, Refreshing, Room Temperature, Lukewarm, Tepid, Warm, Toasty, Steaming, Roasting, Smoldering, Hot, Scalding 

2) Taste

Acidic, Acrid, Bitter, Bittersweet, Bland, Briny, Burnt, Charred, Doughy, Fiery, Flavorful, Fresh, Fried, Green, Harsh, Honeyed, Infused, Mellow, Pickled, Plain, Raw, Refreshing, Rich, Ripe, Roasted, Robust, Rotten, Saccharine, Salty, Satisfying, Sautéed, Savory, Seared, Seasoned, Sharp, Smothered, Sour, Spicy, Starchy, Strong, Sugary, Sweet, Sweet-and-Sour, Tangy, Tart, Tasteless, Toasted, Unflavored, Unseasoned, Zesty, Zingy

3) Texture

Al Dente, Astringent, Chewy, Clumpy, Crackly, Creamy, Crispy, Crumbly, Crunchy, Crusty, Doughy, Drenched, Dried Out, Dripping, Dry, Fatty, Fine (small pieces), Fizzy, Flaky, Flat, Fleshy, Fluffy, Fried, Gelatinous, Glazed, Gloppy, Gooey, Grainy, Greasy, Gritty, Gummy, Harsh, Hearty, Heavy, Juicy, Lean, Light, Limp, Lumpy, Lush, Mashed, Mellow, Melting, Mild, Minced, Moist, Moldy, Mouthwatering, Mushy, Overripe, Pasty, Powdery, Rubbery, Runny, Satisfying, Shattering, Silky, Slimy, Smokey, Smooth, Soggy, Soupy, Spicy, Spongy, Stale, Starchy, Sticky, Stiff, Stringy, Syrupy, Tender, Thick Toothsome

4) Smell

Aromatic, Full-Bodied, Pungent, Rancid, Strong, Heady, Odorless, Overpowering, Perfumed

5) Comparisons

Buttery, Chalky, Cheesy, Chocolaty, Citrusy, Earthy, Eggy, Fishy, Gruity, Gamey, Garlicky, Gingery, Grassy, Herbal, Lemony, Malty, Meaty, Milky, Minty, Nutty, Oily, Oniony, Peppery, Vinegary, Yeasty

For more on creating conversation with your kids, read: 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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Reader Comments (9)

This is fantastic advice. My 7-year-old has recently become more picky and now we're dealing with post-hurricane renovations that are forcing us to eat out nightly. I anticipate this will create even more problems once we're back in our kitchen. Encouraging her to be descriptive could be a great tool for better communication!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I tried this with my 3 year old tonight, with a slice of tomato from our very own bush (late season, I know!). He licked it and said it was "a little bit yummy and a little bit juicy... I like juice mummy... even juice from vegetables" (he still didn't actually eat it though!). And I didn't correct him on the tomatoes are fruit thing either. But still... it's a start!

December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVestifarian

Great idea, I am printing out this list to keep handy. Maybe add chewy and mealy to the texture list.

It gets to my dilemma when the little guy totally rejects a food but doesn't provide insight.

We continue to stumble along with the eating. Improvements are starting to show. (Thank you Dina! Learning so much from strategies and "trade off" discussions here on INAN.)

One tweak I did recently was investing in some cutting tools to make mini-bites for my preschoolers lunchbox. For some reason the uniform tiny pieces make nearly any food more appealing. (Hmm.. apparently honeydew melon is more interesting when cut in cute shapes. )

December 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinn

As everyone here has pointed out, communication is key. That's whyI love Tricia's list: Anything you can talk about with regard to the food is better than a simple yes/no, "Do you like it?"

Linn: I agree with you about small shapes.. They do seem to appeal to kids. Any cutting tools you would recommend?


December 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Fantastic idea! I will certainly try that with my picky eater once I prepare something new for the family.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMario

Thank you so much! I have a 5-year-old daughter and have been struggling to get her to try anything new. Oddly, she is willing to try new meals at school....

Over the past 3 nights, when she said she didn't like something, I asked her to tell me more about the texture/taste/whatever. Each time, she had several more bites while she worked out an answer.

Today, she helped me liquidise the butternut soup I was making for our supper. She was NOT keen on tasting it (but mummy, I don't like soup) until I asked her to add the salt (a carefully measured half-teaspoon) and then tell me if it was enough. The result was her eating half a bowl of soup for her evening meal.

I know it may not last, and won't work with everything, but THANK YOU again.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLorna


Thank you so much for sharing your story.When my daughter was little I always asked her to taste what I was cooking to see if it needed more salt, pepper, garlic... Then, if she said it needed more of something I would pretend to add more (she couldn't see that I wasn't actually pouring anything into the pot). Then I would ask her to taste it again. She always said it was perfect the second time (thanks to her expertise!).


January 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Printing this out! Thank you. We did try, for about a week, a game where my son got to be "restaurant critic." I gave him a short list of questions about the food (flavor, color, texture, etc.) and he filled it out as he tasted the food. It was pretty awesome while it worked but soon enough, he caught onto me and stopped wanting to play. ;)

March 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Hi Angela,
I'm glad you like the list. I know what you mean about your son not wanting to play anymore. I'm going to write about that-and how to reengage kids-tomorrow.


March 17, 2015 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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