{Picky Eaters: How To Encourage Your Child To Try Different Foods}

Is your child a picky eater? Or does he/she eat everything you put on a plate?

My kids lie somewhere in between. While they definitely don't eat a lot (I'm talking microscopic portions), they do eat a wide variety of foods. Some of their favourites might be deemed 'unusual' by others, and even just plain 'gross' by some of their peers. Adults are often quite surprised by what our girls do like to eat.

Some of their more interesting 'thumbs up' foods include octopus, shrimpsquid (they LOVE all three of these!), olives (at the age of 1 Princess Pea and her little friend once scoffed a whole bowl of them at an adult party before any of us noticed what they were up to!), curry (this was a particular favourite when they were babies - mild, of course - as you can see in the photo below), goat cheese (another baby favourite - Princess Pea ate it every day - though now she thinks it's 'stinky'), chicken liverpâté (another one they both go CRAZY for!), and gizzards (actually, any meat from any part of any animal - I've got a couple of true carnivores on my hands here!).

They also love fish, and especially broccoli (their absolute favourite food aside from sweets - preferably made by Daddy). Though these are not unusual foods for adults, many children seem to turn up their noses at them.

Of course, there are also things they dislike. Lots of things, actually. Sweet Pea can't stand eggs. Has never liked them. Princess Pea hates lasagne, sweet-and-sour sauce, capers, and sour cream. And, of course, as with most little children, they dislike various foods on certain days depending on whatever quirky reason they come up with that day. (Princess Pea is definitely the quirkier one in this regard.)

Just how did we manage to get our kids to eat and enjoy all these 'weird' things? Well, here's a few tips for encouraging your child to try eating different foods:
  • 1. Start early. Don't assume that babies won't like particular foods, especially those with strong flavours. As soon as they're old enough to eat a certain food, try it. My experience is that babies love strong flavours like goat cheese, curry, and garlic.
  • 2. Make meals fun and for the whole family. At our house, we eat our meals all together around the table, with no other distractions. It's a time for story-telling, language games, silliness, and enjoyment of our food and our company. Kids are more open to trying something new when they are in a positive, relaxed mood.
  • 3. Just because you don't like a food, doesn't mean your child won't - unless he/she hears you talking about how horrible it is! Then, chances are, your child will come to the same conclusion.
  • 4. Have your child develop an appreciation of food by commenting on it as you buy, prepare and eat it. From "oh, look what lovely peppers these are" at the veggie stand to talking about where milk comes from - your child will learn to appreciate the care that went into growing and preparing the food.
  • 5. Have your child help with food preparation. Even toddlers can help by 'making' the salad by turning the salad spinner or stirring the dressing. Kids are more likely to eat food that they helped to prepare.
  • 6. Take your child grocery shopping. Ok, so maybe not all the time, and preferably just one child at a time to save your sanity. But going with you to the market to help 'pick out' the food gives your child ownership of the meal and is another way that he/she will be more likely to eat it. Let your child choose which vegetables to buy for dinner that day, or to choose an unusual fruit he/she has never tried before. 
  • 7. Don't order from the kids' menu at restaurants. We almost always just order from the regular menu. Depending on how hungry they are, we either just get extra plates to share our meals with them, or order a regular appetizer (or half-portion entree if the restaurant will do it) for them to share together. (It's also usually a much healthier option than the kids' menu offers.)*

For more great tips from readers and other bloggers on how to encourage your child to eat all sorts of foods, click here and join the conversation!

What is the most unusual thing your child likes to eat? 

*As an interesting side observation, I've noticed that it's quite rare to see a kids' menu at restaurants in Europe, and kids in Europe I think tend to eat a wider range of 'adult' foods. Possible connection? My opinion is that if chicken nuggets and fries aren't ever on offer, kids are perfectly happy to eat salmon and lentils.