Encouraging adventurous toddler tastes
Small children can develop obsessive food habits – we all probably know a child who only eats jam sandwiches and bananas, but hopefully it’s not our own offspring! Luckily, after weaning many toddlers will try most foods unless they really are strong tasting.
The onset of aversions tends to come a little later when your child begins to be more aware of different textures, or an eating experience puts a negative association in his head – a rice dish he didn’t enjoy, or hearing an older child complain about a certain vegetable.
Where possible, encouraging as wide a range of foods now as you can not only helps broaden the scope for good nutrition but will be a useful foundation for longer term varied, healthy eating.
Tips for more adventurous eating
• Be a good food role model
Eat a wide variety of foods yourself and whenever possible, get the rest of the family eating meals at the same time as your toddler so he can see your eating habits. He’ll want to give anything you eat a try at least once.
• Be bold
Don’t automatically offer tasteless white bread because you presume that your child won’t like wholemeal, for example. It should not be very nutty bread or have huge grains in it, but you can offer wholemeal bread with a little butter as an easy snack. And try beetroot and butternut squash alongside other sweet, easy-eating veg like carrots.
• Don’t overcomplicate meals
Try not to create elaborate blends of flavours and textures for now – just try a wide scope of new flavours one or two at a time, added to pasta sauces or mixed into mashed potatoes.
• Don’t rush
Introduce a new flavour once a week or so to see how well it goes down.
• Be creative
If your child doesn’t seem interested in new flavours, gradually introduce them by blending them into other favourite foods a little at a time.
• Don’t push it
The last thing you want is a child who associates eating with negative experiences. If your child is a slow eater don’t try to hurry him, resign yourself to the long-haul and sing songs to keep you both amused. If your child really doesn’t respond well to wide variety, try to make sure you are keeping up with a few good healthy ingredients for now. Try new meals again another time when his friend is visiting for lunch – peer actions can really encourage a child to give something a go – and talk to your health visitor about possibly adding vitamin drops to the food he does eat.
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