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encouraging adventurous eating in kids {with one simple rule}

by Heather

Today I’m sharing how we are encouraging adventurous eating in our kids with one simple rule.  I hope it helps you like it has helped us!

encouraging adventurous eating in kids

Can we agree that meal time battles are just the worst?  Right?  When I imagine us all sitting down at the table as a family for dinner, I picture everyone eating with forks while we have happy and loving conversations.  There is laughing, compliments about my amazing cooking and everyone is on their best behavior.

…. but that is so not how it goes.

Don’t get me wrong, we have lots of great mealtimes and conversations.  However, I’d say the majority are really loud (as one would expect with a 1.5, 3.5 and 5.5 year old), and often filled with Jacob and I reminding our kids to eat because they just like to talk – a lot!  Kids!

The one battle we don’t have often is forcing our kids to eat.  I never wanted mealtime to become this struggle where kids are mad because we are making them eat things they don’t want to eat.  I want them to look forward to meals, while having an open mind about foods that they might not be familiar with.  Not only to encourage them to eat a variety of foods, because eating a variety offers a variety of nutrients, but also because I don’t want them to stick their nose up at foods someone else might serve that they aren’t familiar with.

encouraging adventurous eating in kids

I can distinctly remember myself being that kid.  We lived in Holland for a couple years when I was in my pre-teens.  At some point we were invited to a meal with my parent’s friends from Africa.  They served us traditional foods from their country, and I just wouldn’t try it.  Or if I did, I remember being repulsed.  I think they pulled out chocolate pudding cups or something for us kids.   I had such a bad attitude about trying this new to me food.  I feel so bad looking back now!  They were so sweet opening up their home to our family of six, and in return they got a snotty response to their meal.  Uncool Heather, uncool.  My hope is that as Jacob and I raise adventurous eaters, they don’t end up acting like I did, because it was very unkind.

encouraging adventurous eating in kids

encouraging adventurous eating in kids

When Hunter was around 3 years old we noticed him not wanting to try foods that he either wasn’t familiar with, or that were not his favorites.  I don’t like the idea of forcing him to eat foods, but instead we came up with a rule.

The simple rule to cut out meal time battles

He had to try 3 bites of each food, because he was 3 years old.  After those 3 bites if he didn’t want to eat anymore, he did not have to.  He could say it wasn’t his favorite, but maybe his taste buds would change and he’d like it the next time he tried it.

Then he turned 4 and he had to try 4 bites, and now at 5 he tries 5 bites.  Of our 3 kiddos he is the biggest obliger and rule followers, so it has worked really well for him.  We began it with Zoe, likely somewhere in her second year.  She needs more encouragement than Hunter, being more strong willed and stubborn (like her mama), but she also learned that she doesn’t have to eat everything.  She needs more encouragement to try her number of of bites (3 now because she’s 3!) but if we show her the bites on her plate she is a pretty good sport about eating them.

I feel like we are doing something right, as my kids try almost everything with an open mind.  I have to think it has something to do with them continuously trying foods in either new forms, or ingredients they aren’t familiar.  We have been consistent and I really believe it’s paying off!

Consistency is key!

Nova will be 2 in February and the rule will come into play with her sometime in her second year when I think she’ll grasp the concept.  Then in March we have another girl arriving, so lots more testing out this meal time rule in the future.  I’ll have to check back in after a few years and let you all know if it continues to work!

Have you tried this meal time rule to encourage your kids to try new foods?  Do you have ways to keep battles to a minimum, while encouraging your kids to eat?  Please share!


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