Five tips for introducing new foods to children

As you begin to introduce new foods to your child, you may find that texture and how you present the food becomes more important (especially if you are concerned about how much she's eating). It’s time to get creative! Here are five tips for making the introduction of new foods easier.

  • Introduce new textures slowly – Transition to solids slowly by moving away from finely pureed foods to pureed foods with a bit more texture. Then slowly introduce finger foods, making sure they are cut into very small pieces because your child may not be able to chew her food as well as you might think. You can do this even if your child doesn’t have a full set of teeth yet (but watch carefully to make sure your child is not overfilling her mouth with food!). 
     
  • Try plain foods first then slowly add new things – Transitioning out of purees may take a long time and there is no need to rush the process. When your child first begins to eat solids, avoid offering foods with more than one texture (like pizza or pasta for example) because it may be too many new textures at once. Also, begin with desirable finger foods like O's that are rather bland, but kids seem to like them and it gives them practice with solids.
     
  • Make meals more fun – There are so many things that you can do, just to name a few:
    • start with tiny portions (it seems less overwhelming that way)
       
    • cut things up into fun shapes, such as thin apple or cheese spears because it’s easy to hold and it might get your child to use her back teeth if she has them
       
    • grate raw food, like beets, carrots with cucumber (it is less likely for kids to choke on and raw veggies are good for you, plus the variety of colour is more fun)
       
    • present less appealing foods, such as vegetables, beside your child’s favourite foods as an incentive for her to eat more
       
    • adding your child’s favourite toppings or dips to food can be helpful (for example, squeeze lemon juice or add a little butter, coconut oil or cheese to veggies, add spices like cinnamon, or put ketchup, mustard or salsa on the side), and
       
    • use fun names for vegetables (broccoli could be called trees and cauliflower could be snow covered trees, etc.) - older siblings can help with this!
       
  • Don’t force your child to eat foods she doesn’t want to eat, and don't stop giving her what she loves to eat (unless there's a good reason to) – If your child doesn’t seem to want to eat certain foods, don’t make a big deal about it. Wait a few weeks or a month then gently try to introduce it again, she may come around. Don't give up try and remain calm, no matter how frustrated you may be (and it can be frustrating!). Some children take many exposures to new foods before really loving them! Also, don't stop giving your child what she loves to eat, keep giving it to her as well as trying new things. Note that if you have concerns and things don't improve over a couple months, you may want to check with your child’s healthcare provider.
     
  • Empower your child – Let your child squish and touch the food, this is part of the process and shouldn't be discouraged. You can also give your child her own child-size spoon or fork and let her try to feed herself if she shows an interest. You may need to feed her with another spoon or fork to make sure she is eating enough food before she gets the hang of it. Don’t forget to let your child know that you are proud of her even if you have a huge mess to clean up! 

Introducing new foods can be so much fun for children and parents. Please share your tips with us!