How I got my kids to eat new foods and LOVE it!

I end up talking fairly frequently about how I got my kids to eat so well and to enjoy cooking so much. My youngest son used to eat only 5 or 6 things EVER… and “new” foods would cause him to have severe panic attacks (I should mention he has asperger’s… ) I worked with him for a VERY long time (it took maybe 3-4 years) and now eats whatever is put in front of him and actually ASKS to try new things… and he goes through the recipe books to find new recipes…

So at first I told him he just had to have a spoon of “new thing” placed on his plate… he didn’t have to eat it or touch it or smell it or look at it… but in order to get seconds of anything he needed to allow the “new” to be on his plate for the entire meal….

After a few weeks I started having ONE meal a week that was all new thing… I served it with something I knew he would eat (like bread or crackers or something so I knew he wouldn’t go hungry)…. in order to get seconds of the thing he liked he had to have ONE BITE of the new thing… he had to swallow it… couldn’t spit it out or scream or yell or anything… after a couple months I did that several times a week… after a couple months (maybe 6?) EVERY dinner was “nonstandard”…. with something he liked (like bread or noodles or crackers) as a side…

The next step was that he had to have three bites to get seconds of his treasured foods…

Throughout all of this I kept having him help me in the kitchen… picking the recipe (he knew he would have to try it and by this point if he had a hand in picking out the ingredients and chopping things then he was better about trying the new thing)

I kept praising him intensely when he successfully tried it and didn’t gag…

After a while it got to where he had to have an entire serving…. for a while I would let him separate the components (like if it was soup he could eat the potatoes and then the meat and then the carrots etc) the next step was taking an entire spoonful as it was served and not separating it…

 

He found a few things that were added to his repertoire as new favorites… and now (this took probably 3-4 years of EVERYDAY work) he will eat what he is served… he LOVES new things (we had acorn squash the other day…. he saw today that I had acorn squash on the counter and when I told him it was for when we go to richmond he was SO EXCITED)

 

In the beginning there were a LOT of nights where he had a slice of bread for dinner… or a handful of crackers… and then we would just sit and cuddle after dinner…. I explained the rules at every increase… and I was SUPER consistent… I even held to it when we went to buffets and stuff (you have to eat at least one serving of veggie before you get seconds of macnchz)…. CONSISTENCY is key  and gradually increasing the expectations

 

Some people talk about hiding veggies in other foods but I don’t feel that deals with the root of the problem. Kids need to be able to accept a new food and learn how to politely decline. Kids also need to learn how to choose healthy foods, otherwise they end up growing up and moving out and without the food police to watch over them they continue their unhealthy habits and gain a hundred pounds and become diabetic (obviously that’s a tad extreme but you understand my point.) I always tell my kids exactly what is in a recipe. And it’s gotten to the point when we go out to eat my kids CHOOSE veggies and healthy foods over the other things.

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