Building on Safe Foods

“How do we keep expanding their accepted foods if we are always offering something they like?,” said the message from a stressed parent of a picky eater.

Many parents and caregivers tend to feel “stuck” when it comes to helping their child learn to like new foods. It is an important part of creating considerate meals for your child to include a familiar or “safe food”. This is something that they usually eat which gives the adult confidence going into the meal that if their child is hungry they will have something to fill up on. But this is where many of us hit a wall with exposure.


Offering a “safe food” doesn’t mean meals have to become repetitive! In fact, there are many really simple ways to add variety to the foods your child already accepts. These small changes to safe foods help to bridge the gap between familiar and new.

Learn more about food chaining here.


Simple ways to add variety to meals are:

  1. Change the topping(s)- one day we had an English muffin with nut butter and hemp hearts and the next we had it with lentil marinara sauce and cheese!
  2. Change the shape– one day we had long pieces of (cooked) carrot and the next we had shredded “match stick” (raw) carrots 
  3. Change the cooking method and seasonings– roasted with olive oil and seasonings one day and raw with a dip the next 
  4. Add a dipping sauce– there are so many nutritious dipping sauces that can help your little one warm up to new/less favorable foods (Full blog post on nutritious dipping sauces here)
  5. Add a novelty item– fun goes a longggggg way with kids especially at meal times! Simple items like food picks, mini cookie cutters, fun utensils, and silicon cupcake liners can take a meal from “none to fun” with minimal effort on the adults part 😉 Here is a full blog post on making meals fun!

“Variety” is just a fancy way of saying CHANGE IT UP!

You don’t have to “rethink the wheel everyday”- just a few small changes can transform the exact same foods into two totally different meals!

Build on the “safe foods” your child typically eats to help expand their accepted foods. Learning to eat and like new foods is a journey- embrace it! 

To learn more about how to feel confident feeding your picky eater and helping them learn to like new foods, check out our eBook “Guide to Parenting a Picky eater“.

In this guide you will learn:

  • 25 Tips on Parenting a Picky Eater
  • How to create a meal routine withexample schedules (including scheduling with breastfeeding and with 1 or 2 naps per day)
  • How to serve new/less favorable foods to picky eaters
  • How to reduce food throwing
  • How to help your child stay at the table
  • How to build on your child’s safe foods
  • How much milk your child needs and a comparison of milks/milk alternatives
  • How to respond to your child’s requests
  • How to talk to your child during meals
  • How to handle & reduce food waste
  • And so much more

Published by snackswithjax

Sarah is the creator and mom behind "Snacks with Jax", a social media community of over 85,000 parents/caregivers, where she shares her son's meals, nutrition information, and evidence-based tips for feeding children. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Bachelor's degree in Nutrition emphasizing in Wellness from Texas Woman's University and years of experience as a culinary instructor working with ages 2+. She has coached hundreds of parents & caregivers through the journey introducing solids to babies and also navigating picky eating with toddlers and older children. Her focus is on establishing a life-long healthy relationship with food for children while also empowering, encouraging, and educating their adult caregivers.

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