These days, my family is trying to eat plant-based as much as we can - including my little one, which can be a struggle. Although it can be tempting to do almost anything to get your kids to eat, we can sometimes create more of a battle with our coercion techniques! In this post I’m sharing 6 tips to help your picky eater venture into the plant-based world and become more adventurous eaters in general with ease, and maybe a little fun!
By trying out some of the tips below, meals can truly be a time to connect and share the experience of good food!
Get Your Kids Involved in the Kitchen!
Getting kids involved in the kitchen is one of the best ways to encourage them to try new plant-based foods. It ignites curiosity and a sense of pride in what they've created! My go-to for plant-based alternatives is Yves Veggie Cuisine - because they truly have something for everyone - even the pickiest of eaters.
Another fun way to do this is to have a pizza night where everyone tops their own pizza! Here are some fun topping ideas:
Consider asking your child what they would like to include in the line up while you do your planning! Which brings me to my next point…
Offer Options...but not too many
Providing your child with options is a great way to increase the likelihood of them trying out new foods. Give them options, but consider offering just two options to avoid overwhelming decision making. For example, you could ask - “would you rather have burgers or pasta with meatballs tonight?
Share the Responsibility to Take the Pressure Off
As parents, we can feel a lot of pressure to make sure our kids are eating well! But sometimes our efforts to ensure they are getting enough can actually have the opposite effect.
The division of responsibility in feeding is a concept developed by dietitian Ellyn Satter and encourages parents to take charge of what is served, when meal time takes place and where the meal will be served. The child is in charge of if they eat the foods served and how much they eat. I know this can sound a bit scary at first, but with some practice this can take a lot of pressure off of both parent and child leaving them more likely to try new foods!
Always Serve a “Safe Food”
You might be thinking, if my child has autonomy over if and what they eat, what if they don’t eat anything at all?! The good news is, kids are generally very in touch with their hunger and fullness cues and for most healthy kids, if they’re hungry - they’ll eat!
Including at least one food you know your child enjoys when introducing new foods helps to ensure they won’t go hungry (and you’re not getting up multiple times throughout the meal to find an alternative!).
Introduce a “No Thank You” Plate
Letting our child know that if they don’t like something, they don’t have to eat it will encourage them to feel comfortable trying it in the first place!
Provide them with a plate on the side called a “No Thank You” plate and explain that if they take a bite and don’t like it, they can place it there. Less pressure and less mess as food is also less likely to end up thrown on the floor!
All in all - don’t get discouraged!
It can take up to 10-15 exposures to accept or like a new food. We also all have different preferences and they may not like some foods at all. Bottom line is don't get discouraged, this is normal! Try offering the food in different ways, for example, offer Veggie Ground Round in tacos, in a pasta sauce, or in a sloppy joe!
Continuing to offer foods in a fun and non-coercive way can do wonders in your child’s sense of adventure with food. Good luck!
Author: Lindsay Pleskot
Lindsay is a Registered Dietitian, speaker, and writer on a mission to make food feel good body, mind, and soul. She has been featured in/on The Huffington Post, Global BC, CBC News, CKNW radio, Canadian Living, and Chatelaine among other popular media outlets.