If crackers, noodles with butter, and other bland, basic foods are all your child will eat, you are not alone. Picky eating can make mealtime difficult for families but can also lead to nutrient gaps as children grow. To avoid nutrient gaps check out these healthy meals for picky eaters and try our palate expanding tips.
Children’s taste buds can be formed in a variety of ways- genetics, feeding routine, memory, and early exposures. Pickiness usually starts around age 18 months, when toddler taste buds develop. If you’re feeling frustrated and out of ideas for what to serve your toddler, this list of healthy toddler meals is a great place to start.
Aim for variety during the early days
Babies learn flavor preferences very early, as early as in utero. Whatever a mother eats, the flavor and scent will be passed on to the amniotic fluid. Your child’s taste buds are developed in utero, too. When grownups eat a variety of foods and your little one smells the foods or tastes it through breast milk, they are getting flavor exposures. When starting foods, it’s important to try a variety of flavors. Once a child accepts green beans, try adding garlic, onion, or ginger to add to the flavor profile.
It’s ok to like sweet
All humans are predisposed to like sweetness and avoid bitterness. We don’t need to think all sweetness comes in the form of candy and chocolate, though. In fact, offering added sugars to infants and toddlers is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This blog from Yumble has even more tips if you’re looking for more information on raising sugar free kids.
Sweetness for babies and kiddos (and adults) can come from carrots, corn, butternut squash, caramelized onions, apples, peaches, and other whole fruit. These sweet and sour meatballs are a great way to add veggies and protein, while still being low in added sugar.
Be familiar while being different
Giving kids a whole plate of something new and different may scare them into not trying it at all. For a kid, those are big mealtime feelings. Try serving a new food, such as broccoli, with a familiar taste for kids like chicken nuggets. Having a food that feels familiar and safe helps them feel courageous while trying a new flavor or texture.
Have patience without pressure
It can take up to 100 exposures for a child to accept a new flavor or food. “Exposure” doesn’t even mean taking a bite. An exposure may be just having it on the plate, looking at it, smelling it, or touching it. Be patient and don’t pressure your child. Pressuring your child may cause them to shut down and not try the food completely. Instead, play it off like it’s no big deal. Put one piece of broccoli on the plate to try. Don’t feel like trying it? Ok, maybe next time.
Be sneaky but honest
There are tons of books, websites, and cookbooks that recommend pureeing and hiding vegetables into kid’s foods. While this can be ok sometimes, it should not be the main way to expose kids to a variety of flavors. If mac and cheese is a familiar, safe food, try adding a little piece of cauliflower on the side. You can also try adding a small amount of pureed cauliflower to the cheese sauce. If you don’t have time to make your own cheese sauce, try this quick veggie packed version or macaroni and cheese with meatballs.
A kids’ meal delivery service, Yumble Kids provides variety, convenience, and nutritious meals made just for kids. Offering a variety of safe familiar foods, with new veggies, spices, and seasonings, Yumble Kids is a great way to expand your kid’s taste palate.
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