The Simple Trick to Helping Picky Eaters Try New Foods

Eating is one of life’s simplest but more enjoyable pleasures. It brings people together, renews your energy, and just makes you feel good. So as a parent, it can be difficult to understand why your little one refuses to eat, scrunches their face up at the sight of certain foods, and even spits them out. The dinner table can be a daily struggle for many parents, even a battleground that can end in tears, and not just for the child.

So how do you make mealtime fun and change your child’s attitude toward food? Well, according to new research from Aston and Loughborough Universities in the U.K., you could banish your child’s fussy eating habits for good thanks to the “Three R's”—Repetition, Role Modeling, and Rewards. Here’s how it works: Expose your child to a certain food (repetition); eat it first and show them how tasty it is (role modeling); then praise them for trying it (rewards). The study found that introducing this concept “dramatically increased children's liking and consumption of vegetables that they previously disliked.”

Contributing Parents nutrition editor Karen Cicero says we need to remember that “it's the parents' job to serve healthy food, and it's the child's job to eat it”—even if getting your kids to eat more vegetables feels like a battle a lot of the time. “Your job is going to be thankless and frustrating at times, but it's important to keep cool—at least around the kids—of course, you can vent to other parents,” she says. “If your child will only eat a handful of foods—despite your best attempts—and doesn't like the texture of many foods, talk to your pediatrician about seeing a feeding specialist, who can help you work through these issues.”

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, every little tip or trick to encourage our children to eat well helps, right? When we asked you on MyDomaine Instagram recently, we were overwhelmed with helpful tips and tricks from roasting veggies in olive oil to disguising veggies in a pasta sauce. We tapped Karen to share her thoughts on the “Three R’s” and offer some of her personal tips for getting picky eaters to love healthy food. Scroll down to read more.

“Ask your child: Do you want zucchini or green beans with dinner tonight? When kids have a say in the decision-making process, they're more likely to eat the food they picked."

“Suppose your child's favorite veggie is carrots. (That was the top pick in a Parents' survey a few months ago.) Mix them with a little bit of another veggie or other food (like raisins, for instance) you'd like your child to try.” 

“I think my daughter called broccoli 'trees' until she was about 8. Research from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab shows that when you give veggies a catchy name (they used "X-Ray Carrots," for instance), kids ate way more.”

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Do you think the “Three R’s” will work in your household? What are your tips for getting picky eaters to eat healthy foods? Share them with us in the comments.

Do you think the “Three R’s” will work in your household? What are your tips for getting picky eaters to eat healthy and love food? Share it with us in the comments.

Opening photo: Nikole Ramsay for The Grace Tales