As a feeding therapist I am often asked the same question by friends, family, and clients: “How do I get my child to eat new foods?” Although our approach in feeding therapy is individualized per client, the following advice can be used as a starting point for any parent. Try to imagine yourself as a child and frequently being offered new foods that look different, feel different, smell different, and one must assume taste different! You are very apprehensive and anxious about being offered new foods because your parents expect you to take a bite of it immediately! STOP RIGHT THERE! Let’s implement some simple feeding therapy practices.
When new foods are offered to your children look at it as a chance to explore the food together. Eating isn’t just about getting calories for a child, it is about discovering a new food with all of your senses. Describe food by how it smells, how it feels on your utensil/finger/lips/tongue (hot/cold, hard/soft, etc.), how it looks, how it tastes (spicy, sweet, savory, sour).
All of these steps allow your child new ways to interact with food, enable them to have more time before being asked to eat it, and encourage them to use more words so that “I don’t like it” becomes “I’m afraid it’s spicy.” By making their interactions with food a multistep experience you will reduce their anxiety and help them feel empowered. How are they empowered? Because these feeding therapy steps allow them to tell us “I can lick it today but I’m afraid to eat it because of how it feels.” This will give us the tools as parents and therapists to know why it may be hard and what obstacle we need to approach next when offering new foods.