People tend to be hesitant, even fearful of new things – especially unfamiliar foods. The technical term for this is neophobia. “Phobia”, of course, means fear; while “neo” means new. Put these back together they mean fear of the new.
Children tend to be naturally neophobic. However, if your child has turned his/her nose up at foods you have served do not get discouraged. It can take 15-20 exposures of a food to entice kids to try it and (hopefully) like it. Let’s take a look at how you can get your kids open to trying new foods.
Get them involved. At the grocery store, have the kids choose a fruit, vegetable or whole grain snack they would like to eat. If they choose the food, it is more likely that the child will want to eat it. Make it a New Year’s goal to try one new healthy food each week.
At home, have the kids help in meal preparation. Kids ages three to six can gather ingredients, scrub fruits and vegetables, tear up lettuce for a salad, add pre-measured ingredients or even crush crackers/chips for toppings. Pre-teens can be more involved in the cooking process. They can crack eggs into a bowl, measure ingredients, peel vegetables, fill muffin or cake tins and even cut up soft foods with a blunt knife. Your teenagers can use the oven, blender and mixer with supervision and chop up vegetables. They can even practice doubling a recipe or cutting it in half, which has the bonus of them practicing their math skills.
By involving the kids in grocery shopping and meal preparation, they will more likely try the foods (decreasing their neophobia), since they were a part of the entire process. You will also be teaching them a basic life skill – cooking – a skill that seems to have gone by the wayside.
Just as important as involving your kids in the shopping and meal preparation is you being a positive role model. If you are asking little Suzy to try a new food, but she sees you cringe at the sight of it, she will likely follow your lead and not want to try it. Kids are strongly influenced by their parents/caregivers. Set a positive example for them and try the new foods along with them. Also try to choose healthier foods more often. You will be pleasantly surprised to see that they will follow your lead helping them establish healthy eating habits early. This will set them on the path for a being healthy for a lifetime.