Responding to your child when they refuse to try a new food

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How do you respond when your child says, “I won’t try it” or “no way I’m not going to eat that” when it comes to mealtime.

This can be so frustrating: we spent time preparing a nutritious dinner, we want them to EAT, or maybe they ate the food only a few days ago. Here’s how to respond to your child when they refuse to try a new food.

What’s the best way to respond?

Take a deep breath. Then say: “you don’t have to try it.” It’s as simple as that.  

I’m a firm believer in not forcing or putting pressure on a child to try a food. It’s really that one simple phrase (you don’t have to try it) that you can use.

Let’s talk about why this is important.

Can you think back to a time that you put pressure on your child to try a food? What usually happens? Are they agreeable to your request, or are you met with a battle, maybe a tantrum and yelling match ensued?  When we take that pressure away, we’re taking away the anxiety on their part (of having to try something they don’t want to) AND the anxiety on our part. By taking the pressure off of them, it actually might make them more likely to have an interaction with that food.

Our long term goal is really to help our child develop a healthy relationship with food. And if you’ve read any of my other posts, or watched any of my videos, you know that I talk a lot about this.  We want our children to develop a long term love of some of these new foods, like vegetables, which I know is a big contender with that “I won’t try it category.” Are they going to learn to love veggies by being pressured into taking a bite? Probably not. 

What can we do instead of asking them or pressuring them to try the food? 

The first thing that we can do is to encourage interactions with the food. Children typically aren’t going to try a food the first time it’s presented to them, especially the more wary child, they might need to see the food, play with the food, touch or lick the food, or have some sort of interaction with it, which may occur over multiple times.  We can encourage those interactions. We can encourage passing the bowl of food from one family member to another. We can encourage them to pick up a piece of food and, put a piece on their plate if they want to. We can encourage them to smell the food. 

We also encourage them by talking about what we’re doing with the food. I might say, “look at this piece of broccoli, it kind of looks like a little tree. When I touch it, it feels kind of bumpy on my finger. How does it feel to you?”

It may sound or feel kind of silly doing this initially, but the way that we’re going to get our children engaged in the food is by having those interactions with the food. So when we don’t make it a big deal, it does not become a big deal. That’s the best way to respond to your child when they refuse to try a new food.

Want more tips to help your little one try new food? Download my free guide HERE.