Make a deal
When coaxing their children to try new foods, experts rely on an age-old trick: Pairing it with a tried-and-true favourite. In Taylor’s home, that means adding chocolate chips, rather than blueberries, to whole wheat pancakes so her younger son will eat them.
Lianne Phillipson-Webb, a registered nutritionist whose practice is based in Toronto, convinced her five-year-old daughter, Hadley, to try breaded cod by serving it with a beloved side dish: lemony green beans. “She had a bean after she put the fish in her mouth and ended up eating all of the fish—by eating more green beans.”
In the same spirit, Phillipson-Webb uses a game called Upside-Down Bowl Night. She places a food her daughters enjoy, such as a cookie or fruit sorbet, on a plate, covers it with an upside-down bowl, then tops the bowl with something she wants them to eat, such as raw vegetables or fresh fruit. “They have to eat what’s on top before they can reveal the bottom,” she says.
At Sunderland’s house, the two-bite, 10-minute rule reigns supreme: Her sons must try at least two bites of everything on the table, and sit at the table for at least 10 minutes. “I’ve even said that if things are so bad that you can’t swallow that bite, then you can excuse yourself quietly, go to the garbage and get rid of it,” she says. “I’ve found that has helped us to really increase the repertoire of foods Reid will eat.”
Our experts know that children’s tastes shift frequently, so they reintroduce foods their children have rejected, knowing they may change their minds anytime. For instance, Taylor’s son Ben had steadfastly refused turnips for years — but recently spooned some onto his plate, without any prompting at all from his mom.
In the meantime, if you’re really stuck—perhaps your daughter will not eat anything green—that doesn’t necessarily mean kale is off the menu. You may just have to hide it.