Getting Kids to Try New Foods: 10 Alternatives to the “No Thank You Bite”

Getting Kids to Try New Foods - AvivaGoldfarb.com
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Last week, I was doing a cooking demo for a group of parents at a local elementary school.  Whenever I speak to parents, the topic of picky eaters comes up because it is such a source of frustration and stress for many of us. 

During the presentation, when we were talking about how to get kids to try new foods, some parents said they encourage kids to take a “no thank you bite” or to take “one bite to be polite.”

I’ve heard these expressions a lot over the years, and while I understand the sentiment, it occurred to me that both of those expressions assume the negative. One starts with “no,” the other starts with “one,” almost assuming there won’t be a second bite.

Unlike some family nutrition experts, I believe in using positive encouragement to get kids to try new foods. When our kids, Solomon and Celia, were in their picky phases, we used to urge them to try new things on their plate (usually the untouched vegetables) by telling them that their taste buds mature as they get older, so even if they didn’t like it before, they might like it this time because they are older now.  Or we’d say with enthusiasm, “You never know, this might be your new favorite food!” 

Often it worked—usually they at least tried the food they were avoiding and sometimes they even had “a bunch.”  Over time, they didn’t need the encouragement anymore and have become avid vegetable eaters and triers of whatever crazy things I put on their plates. (The perils of being the child of a recipe developer…)

I was brainstorming with some of you on the Six O’Clock Scramble Facebook page, trying to come up with a more positive term to use as alternatives to “no thank you bite” or “one bite to be polite.”  

Getting Kids to Try New Foods - AvivaGoldfarb.com

Here were our ten favorites:

  1. I might bite
  2. Two bite club
  3. Touch it to your tongue (especially for kids with sensory issues)
  4. Thank you bite
  5. Taste test bite, a taste, or tasting bite
  6. The “try it you might like it” bite
  7. Try it bite or try bite
  8. Adventure bite (or be a food adventurer)
  9. First bite (followed by, “was it love at first bite?”)
  10. Educational bite

Additionally, here are some interesting comments from parents about what has worked for them:

A TASTING BITE…which is then followed up with curiosity. “What did it taste like?” Try to avoid, “Did you like it?” – that sets you up for a yes or no answer. We want to invite our kids to be curious and have a conversation about food versus placing a judgment on foods that then might limit their choices. — Nina Manolson

We used to say “touch it to your tongue.” My son, who has sensory integration issues, had some food texture issues when he was young, so not having to put it in his mouth led to many more bites after his tongue tried it first. Now he eats almost anything! — Monica Palmer Smith

We sing Daniel Tiger’s “You gotta try a new food cause it might taste goooo-ood!” A few zillion times. In different keys. With different accents. — Lara Dyan

We always say, “You aren’t allowed to say “eww” until you try it… You might be surprised!” I have also heard “Don’t yuck, someone else’s yum…” In other words if you don’t care for it after you try it, say, “No thanks. That’s not for me.”  — Tricia Weithofer

How about, “I’ll give you a quarter if you try a bite.”? Seriously, we tried the one bite rule and it did not work for us. How do you force a child to take a bite? It turned dinner into a battle of wills. We gave up. Now our kids are 7 and they are much more willing to try stuff than when they were 3 or 4. — Melissa Eller Brown

We make a game with my two kids asking “Who is going to be healthier tonight?” In other words who will eat more of the vegetable, etc. There is no prize for whoever eats more veggies, just bragging rights. — Elissa Shapiro

I suppose a “mommy will cry tears of gratitude if you can just get one single forkful down without gagging” bite is over the top? — Kristin Terchek O’Keefe

“That’s mine, it’s really good, and you can’t have a bite” bite. It works on my kids. — Benjamin Peter Clarke

Our policy for our kids (and any kids eating at our house) is “Take as many bites as you are old.” It works great for 3-7. Even the pickiest eaters just say “OK” and do it. — Laura Jimenez Lowell

We followed the advice of Ellyn Satter in Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. She counseled that parents’ responsibility is to put healthy food on the table, not in the child. So, we never had a “no thank you” bite of any kind. — Laura Trivers

My father used to convince me to try new foods by telling me about all the things that I didn’t used to like (but was too little to remember). It definitely got me to try new things. — Pam Shein Holland

What works for your family, or how have you stumbled when it comes to getting your kids (or spouses?) to try new foods?

As a bonus, here are some of the best recipes I’ve found for picky eaters.


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Aviva Goldfarb
Aviva Goldfarb is a Washington Post contributor, author of 4 cookbooks, and founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble, an online healthy meal planner. She writes about food, cocktails, travel and parenting, is an entrepreneur, and a marketing consultant for food related ventures.

5 Comments

  1. I follow the same “take as many as you are old” method when the girls are resistant. It’s often the case that one sibling will make a comment and then they both agree they don’t like the food. nd many times, as they start eating, they realize they actually like the food.

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