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How to Introduce New Foods to Your Toddler

Jun 21, 2024

Introducing New Foods

Blech! What’s that?! The exasperated cry of your hungry toddler is the very last thing you need on your plate. At least, that’s the way it seems when there are so many tasks to attend to throughout the day. Never fear! A mom or dad with a plan can start breaking these barriers down, making mealtime a more pleasant time for everyone. Who said introducing new foods has to be a challenge?


Patience and Fun: Key Elements in Pediatric Feeding Therapy

If you have a picky eater or problem feeder on your hands, it can be a serious undertaking to work around your toddler’s selective palate. The same goes for introducing new foods when you’re let down with a twist of the nose or a ton of fuss. The key here is to reduce the pressure at mealtime by being patient and in a sense, letting things go. Creating a negative experience with eating will not make your child more likely to pick up their fork and try something new. Remember, it’s not the end of the world if your child turns the other cheek. What’s important is that you try, try, and try again. You may attempt introducing new foods in a fun way to lower the stress and pressure. Make funny shapes and colorful patterns out of the food and see if your child is more willing to dig in.


Introducing a Variety of Foods: Techniques for Success

If you’ve tried presenting a new food and it didn’t go over so well, present it again in a brand-new way. Add dipping sauce with it, blend it up, or chop it into smaller pieces. Let’s take broccoli, for example. You could pair a dipping sauce with it or cook it in a different way. Your child could turn into a real veggie lover. However, you mix it up on the plate, this might be the key to getting your child to really enjoy a new food.


Be a Foodie Role Model for Your Child

As adults, we think that eating should be easy as pie. There’s so much to enjoy! Keep in mind that your little one is new to this experience, and food will taste a little different for them. What can really help out is to eat these foods with your child. Show them how tasty that strawberry is by testing a few yourself in front of them. It may make them want some too so that they can be just like you!


Engage Your Child in Cooking and Growing Food

Your child has a creative and imaginative spirit. When they participate in a hands-on activity, it can really make them feel a special connection with what they were able to create. Use this idea of creative energy when introducing new foods. Maybe you can allow your child to grow tomatoes in the garden. They might just be more willing to give this food a chance later on. You can also involve them in the cooking experience. There’s really something exciting about trying out and tasting food that you made with your own hands. You might be surprised by what you make and eat together.


Bridging Foods: A Strategy for Expanding Your Child’s Palate

Some foods are pretty similar to one another, which can be helpful leverage when introducing new foods. If you know your child likes macaroni and cheese, for example, you could change up the type of noodle and cheese next time. This technique is called “bridging” or “food chaining.” Essentially, you’re helping your child expand on the foods that they already do enjoy without jumping into territory that’s too unfamiliar.


Slow and Steady: The Best Approach for Introducing New Foods

If you’re unsure whether your kiddo will be receptive to a new type of food, give it to them in small portions. It is much easier to try one bite than to jump into a giant serving. Even if the first time doesn’t go as planned, you may try introducing that same food later on. Just be sure to wait a few days before giving it another go. Your child just might surprise you!


Picky eating and problem feeding can be worrisome in little ones, especially since their growing bodies and minds need nutrients to develop. Pediatric feeding therapy might be right for you if they’re struggling with enjoying a variety of food. Learn about the Feeding Therapy team at Jodi Gilray PT or contact us to request an evaluation.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2021 and has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information for parents and caregivers.