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  • Writer's pictureLittle Daisies

Teaching children to accept new foods

“My child refuses to try anything new!” 

“My child only eats rice and chicken.” 

“My child only eats things that are white.” 

“My child only eats food that are prepared at home.” 

Do these thoughts or concerns strike a chord with you? 

Children may display a wide range of food pickiness. They can range from being a bit choosy, to exclusively eating a few food items. 

While some children do outgrow their picky-eating phase, parents may want to intervene if food refusal is severe enough to affect their child’s health, growth, and daily life (e.g. the ability to attend birthday parties, or have a dining-out experience with the family). 

If you are one of them, don’t worry—we will outline a few simple steps you can take to help your child accept new foods. 

We have successfully completed many eating programs with our students. One of our most memorable moments was when a young boy, who previously refused to try watermelon, finally tried a piece and declared that it was his new favorite fruit! 

How we can work on it 

Deciding to intervene 

The first step is deciding whether the problem is severe enough that you want to intervene. Perhaps you are worried that your child is not getting a balanced spectrum of nutrients. Or perhaps the dramatic meltdowns at the dinner table have been troubling the entire family. If the problem is severe enough to impact your child’s daily life, you may decide that it is worth it to intervene. 

Graduated exposure 

The second step is exercising graduated exposure. It is a method that gently exposes a child to something he/she is afraid of. In the context of food refusal, we expose the child to a food item gradually and comfortably in a series of small steps. As the child gains comfort, we increase the exposure until he is comfortable enough to eat the targeted food item. Here is how we do it: 

Step 1: Create a hierarchy and decide where to start 

Choose a food item to work on (e.g. carrots). 

Create a hierarchy (take a look at our sample below). 

1. Tolerate food in the same room

2. Tolerate food on the eating table

3. Tolerate food on his plate 

4. Smell food and throw away

5. Touch food and throw away

6. Kiss the food and throw away

7. Lick food and throw away

8. Place small piece of food on tongue for 5s and throw away 

9. Break food with teeth and throw away

10. Chew food 5x and throw away 

11. Eat a small piece

12. Eat an entire piece 

Every child is different, so our starting points will differ accordingly. Start at the furthest point your child is comfortable with. 

Depending on your child’s comfort level, your hierarchy may consist of larger or smaller steps. 

Step 2: Slowly move up the hierarchy as your child gains comfort in each step 

Step 3: If, at any point, your child is not progressing or is too uncomfortable, you can move down to the previous step to practice more. Continue to move forward once he is more comfortable. If you child is stuck on a particular step, revise the hierarchy and further break down the steps. 

Step 4: Repeat steps 2-3 until your child reaches the final stage of the hierarchy.

Step 5: Repeat the entire process for other food items! 

Watch the video to see how we taught Leo to eat CARROTS!

If you have any questions of encounter any difficulties in running the program, we are here to help. Book a free initial consultation with us through WhatsApp or email.

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