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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It's Crazy to Ask Kids to Eat New Foods Until They Already Like It

It can take toddlers 10-14 times of tasting a new food before they'll like it.

Everyone knows this, right? And it can take picky eaters even longer.

Getting to the magic number can be a real challenge. That's why most parents give up on a new food after serving it 4 times.

So here's the question: If it's pretty much guaranteed that your child won't like a new food until the 10th time he has tasted it, why would he eat the food on tries 1, 2, 3, 4...?

Kids won't eat food they don't like.So this is straight math/logic. 

  • Taste 1: Food rejected. Don't like. Won't eat it.
  • Taste 2: Food rejected. Don't like. Won't eat it.
  • Taste 3: Food rejected. Don't like. Won't eat it.
  • Taste 4: Food rejected. Don't like. Won't eat it.
  • Parent gives up.

Expecting kids to eat a food during the phase where they're just getting used to it is crazy. And the crazy is on us.

Mixing up tasting and eating is the problem.

During the "getting used to it" phase, kids should only be asked to taste a new food. One bite. One tiny bite. With NO expectation that they'll eat it.

In the research that investigates how long it takes before kids will accept new foods, they rarely (if ever) ask the children to EAT the food. They simply give them a pea-sized sample to taste. And that's what parents have to do.

Say, "If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it," or the modern equivalent, "Just take a 'no thank you bite'" and you'll be dead in the water.

"If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it," sets up the expectation that your child will have to eat it if he likes it. This is implied pressure and it makes reluctant kids reject the new food even before they've tasted it. 

I know this doesn't make sense to parents, who think "Kids will want to eat food they like," but it doesn't work that way. Kids have lots of reasons for refusing food. Making your life miserable is one of them!

And a "No thank you bite" just primes kids to politely say "no thank you" when they reject the food. In fact, it primes them to think, "No thank you" before they even take that bite.

The problem is that we don't know which taste will be the magic taste. Is it taste #5, taste #8, or taste #42?

Some kids like a new food earlier than other kids. And some foods are easier to like than others. But since you can't know which tasting attempt will produce the winner, the only thing you can do is continue to offer tastes.

And the only way to offer tastes without making yourself crazy is to completely separate tasting from eating.

In other words, unless you have already grown a good taster, never push the issue of eating a new food. Otherwise you'll end up in a control struggle. And you'll probably end up throwing out a lot of food.

  • Always put something on the table you can reasonably expect your child to eat.
  • Offer tastes of food on a separate plate if your child is overly protective and scared.
  • Find opportunities away from the table to encourage exploration: At the grocery store, when you're cooking, when you're eating, when you're at the park!

When parents lower their expectations around new foods, kids do better.

Learning to taste new food is a skill children have to learn. For more on this topic read Unleash Your Toddler's Inner Food Critic and Nix the Negativity.

~Changing the conversation from Nutrition to Habits.~


Moving recess to before lunch increases fruit and vegetable consumption

Having recess before lunch increases fruit and vegetable consumption!

Don't you just love it when researchers study— and then discover—the obvious?

Hmmm...let's see...requiring kids to take a fruit or a vegetable doesn't increase consumption, but making sure kids are extra hungry before lunch does. 

When lunch is scheduled before recess, kids are encouraged to minimize eating time. And that usually means cutting out the fruits and vegetables.

This is especially true for kids who value playing and running around.

Two takeaways for feeding kids at home:

  1. Structural changes can have a big effect. For instance, sometimes feeding children dinner at 4:30 solves all the evening eating/meltdown/control struggle problems. (Still want a family dinner experience? Let kids eat their dinner early, so that you're not fighting about snacks and then let your children eat dessert when the adults eat.)
  2. Often parents inadvertently create an incentive for children to do the opposite of what we would like them to do. One example that comes to mind is the strategy of providing an appealing after-dinner snack that kids really like. This encourages some children to skip (or minimize eating) at dinner. After-dinner/before-bed snacks should be acceptable but not preferred.

Moving recess to before lunch increased the number of fruit and vegetable servings by 65% in one study.

It also increased the percentage of children eating fruits and vegeatbles by 69%

Other benefits schools have reaped from moving recess to before lunch:

  • More food being eaten overall (decreasing, presumably, excessive afternoon hunger that often leads to poor academic performance and unhealthy snacking).
  • Less wasted food.
  • Calmer lunchroom atmosphere.
  • Decrease in disciplinary problems.

And remember, changing the timing of recess is free. 

As are the structural changes you can make at home!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Price, J. and D. R. Just. 2015. “Lunch, Recess and Nutrition: Responding to Time Incentives in the Cafeteria.” Preventive Medicine 71: 27-30.


The 52 New Foods Challenge: Change the Way Your Kids Eat Forever!

If I were ever going to write a cookbook, it would be a lot like this one, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee.

It's like Jennifer has been living inside my head for the past decade! I'm not joking.

You know how I'm always talking about the importance of reducing pressure? About using variety to lay the foundation for new foods? About how teaching kids about the sensory properties of foods eliminates fear and resistence?

Well, it's all in there. Concrete, practical steps. (Use it as the handy compendium to my book!)

The 52 New Foods Challenge is not so much a cookbook as it is a how-to guide:

  • How to get kids used to the idea of trying familiar foods in new ways.
  • How to create an engaging game that makes children eager to try new foods.
  • How to help your children explore food with all their senses: sight, smell, touch, sound and taste.
  • How to get your kids into the kitchen.
  • How to reduce tension around the table so you can stop being a dictator and start being a teammate.
  • How to help your kids feel safe around unfamiliar foods.
  • How to leverage your children's intrinsic motivation to be healthy eaters.
  • How to use rewards effectively.
  • How to stage meals to encourage veggie consumption.
  • How to shop, cook and plan meals efficiently and effectively.

And then, as if that weren't enough, The 52 New Foods Challenge, actually provides recipes!

Not hard, complicated recipes. Easy and tasty ones.

Here's the plan:

Every week your family picks one new food to taste test. One new food. That's not so hard. And then there are a handful of recipes for each new food so your family can sample it multiple ways.

The book is organized seasonally so you'll be trying foods that are fresh, easily available, and which you're probably already in the mood for. 

  • Fall calls for families to try foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and brussels sprouts.
  • Winter is all about kale, leeks, Asian pears, quinoa.
  • Spring will move you onto asparagus, zucchini, strawberries and cherries.
  • Summer introduces corn, peaches, lavender and chickpeas

Get your copy of The 52 New Foods Challenge here.

My family has a pretty diverse diet already, but I have to say that this book put a little more spring into our step.

Reading this book reminded me about foods we like but which I rarely buy—foods like leeks. And while I had a quibble or two about the guidelines for families, this book has already helped us break out of the go-to recipe rut.

Last week my family made Brussels Sprouts Chips. They're like Kale Chips...only a teensy bit better.

We all dove into this dish with gusto—and huge smiles. 

You should definitely try making this. Here are Jennifer's directions (page 77).


Brussels Sprouts Chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Using your fingers, peel away the leaves from the sprouts.

3. Place the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the leaves in the pan. Reduce the heat to 250° F and bake the sprouts for 15 minutes more, or until the leaves are crispy and almost burnt. Let your kids watch closely to figure out the best timing for your oven.

Jennifer's tip for peeling the leaves: Cut off the ends, turn the sprouts over and gently pry the leaves away starting at the stem. Keep trimming off the ends as you go to make it easier to peel off the layers. This takes patience (and time), but it's a fun activity for your kids. As you get closer to the center, the leaves will become too tight to peel, so simply save the small pieces for sautéing or roasting.

Recipe reprinted from The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Jennifer Tyler Lee, 2014

Want to know more about The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~