How to encourage kids to eat new and unpopular foods.

Post by chef and daddy Sean Lockerby

As all mum’s know, kids love to eat but it has to be fun and tasty.  Here are a few tips to help engage kids into cooking and ways to get them eating new or unpopular foods (usually the healthy ones!).

  1. The hardest thing about getting your kids to eat new foods is getting them to try it. A recent study found (tried and tested on my own kids) that renaming unpopular foods with a cool name increases the chances of your kids eating them by up to 50%. The study also found that it will continue after they figure out the real name! For example calling carrots ‘Night Vision Super Carrots’ makes them more fun and reduces the chance of them saying no before they have even tried it. The funny thing is this same principle is used on adults in almost every restaurant, just not with night vision!
  2.  Another way to get your kids to eat new foods is to engage their imagination. Already a well established tactic for many mums but it really works! Create a story around the food, whether it is where they come from or what they do to you when you eat them. The imagination of a child is strongly linked to their character and behaviour including appetite. Make it fun and you will have them eating anything!
  3. Be educational, involve your children in the kitchen and show them how things are done plus they are free labour so make the most of it! Children also love to make a mess so let them if it helps!! Getting children involved in preparing food teaches them math and reading skills, safety, and creativity, in addition to helping them learn responsibility and awareness about the natural world.
  4. One of the most significant factors in your children eating new foods is whether or not you eat them. What you eat has an influence on what your kids will eat. If you rarely serve vegetables, it should come as no surprise that your kids don’t like them and aren’t used to eating them.
  5. Children, regardless of age, like to make their own decisions. Give them a choice of a few different new foods, so whatever they choose means you haven’t forced it on them.
  6. For small children, colours and shapes are very powerful symbols so use natural brightly coloured food and prepare or present them in a fun way.
  7. Combine unpopular or new foods with preferred foods, maybe even disguising them within the preferred food for example add some carrots and other veg into mash potato to give it colour and sweetness. Once they have eaten it tell them what’s in it.

These are just some of the things I have come across while being a parent and caterer. As a catering company we are always asked by parents to help with ideas for children’s party catering, as all kids are different and usually very stubborn about their likes and dislikes. Basically make it fun and have a balance between healthy and naughty. Guest post by Sean Lockerby, head chef of Jackson’s Catering. Providing private and corporate catering in Newcastle upon Tyne and the North East of England.

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2 Comments

  1. Naomi Richards
    May 9, 2011 / 2:36 pm

    Great advice. I am finding as my children get older they are trying more new foods and also they like to taste more flavour. Soy Sauce has got them to eat lots more foods for example.

  2. Sean
    May 10, 2011 / 5:29 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Naomi!! Most kids develop a palette eventually but it does need some encouragement

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