“Do you use the “just try one bite” RULE? This is a mealtime pressure.
Something we know about mealtime pressures is they increase pickiness and decrease our child’s willingness to try the food (neither of which are outcomes parents want.)
By saying something like “just try some” or “you’ll like it” instantly brings up their guard.
Think about it, when someone has to persuade you of something you’re not sure about, how do you react?
For example, if you’re afraid of heights and your spouse or a friend says, “Nah, you’ll love going up on a ladder or in a hot air balloon or the roof of a skyscraper, it’s really fun, you’ll love it”… You might think they’re full of sh*t and you certainly won’t instantly stop being afraid.
Instead, as parents and caregivers, what we want to do is nurture their healthy relationship with food, and with us. In the end, the parent/child trust relationship is more important than their reluctance to taste broccoli.
One bite of broccoli (or anything) doesn’t contribute to their overall health. But that one negative impression at meal times can follow them for years.
In fact, a study once found that 74% of adults who were “forced” to eat a certain food as a child, now actively avoid eating that food as an adult.
Honestly, it can be so so hard to avoid saying this! All that time grocery shopping, prepping & cooking dinner… just for them to ignore the broccoli, again.
I can totally understand and sympathize with why you would want to say this… but instead if forcing them to try a bite, let’s try this:
Here are some ways to encourage more adventurous eating without having to beg, bribe, or bargain:
🥳 Make veggies FUN – shapes, food picks, and fun utensils 😋 Make veggies taste better – using healthy fats and seasonings to enhance the flavor. Learn more about easy ways to make meals more interesting to your little one, here.
🗣 Talk about foods in a way your little one can understand- color, size, texture, flavor (anything besides “yucky yummy good or bad”). Explain to them what YOU like about these foods and make sure they see you eating them too.
🥫 Offer a familiar dipping sauce– toddlers love to dip and something familiar can make the new food seem more inviting! Check out this full guide to nutritious and delicious dipping sauces.
Learning to like new foods takes time, patience, and lots of exposure! Don’t be upset if they don’t eat it this time. Make a point to have fun and continue to expose them to new and less favorable foods so that they at least have the chance to keep trying!
And if you do find yourself asking them to “Just take one bite”, don’t feel bad. It is an easy habit to fall into, especially if you grew up being expected to try or eat everything. (Learn more about how parenting styles impact mealtimes) But your child isn’t disrespecting you or insulting your cooking by not eating everything your serve. They are simply learning to like new foods and that is okay!
Learning to like new foods is a lifelong process. So sit back, enjoy your food, and remember that you can always save what they don’t eat as leftovers!
What to do INSTEAD
Because you DID spend all that time and money purchasing and preparing foods, I know that you still want them to eventually try it. (I know this because I feel the exact same way with my own child.) And while you should try to avoid asking them to “eat it”, there are still ways to encourage them to try it without pressuring them!
Food play is hands down the best way to engage your child with new foods.
Play is the natural way that children learn and explore the world around them.
Food play is simple and requires nothing more than food and imagination!
Now, if you read the words “food play” and your mind goes right to cafeteria room food fights and fingerpainting the table with mashed potatoes, let me ASSURE you this is NOT what food play looks like at the table.
Just like coloring time requires crayons to “stay on the page” and not color the table, food play requires food to “stay on the plate” – because all play has boundaries!
But by engaging your child’s imagination around new foods you make those less intimidating and as they being to play them you can integrate ways to explore them more.
By encouraging them to smell, lick and even taste these foods without ever having to ask them to “just try a bite”.
It is important to keep in mind that even if they try it, they might still not like it. This, too, is okay! Try to avoid reacting. Keep cool, calm, and continue on knowing you just made a HUGE step in your child learning to like that new food!
Check out this post on the importance of exposures and how Exposures build on one another!