The Proven Way to Get Picky Eaters to Try New Food

If you're a parent of a picky eater it can be hard to make sure your child's nutritional needs are being met. Whether they won't eat anything green or they want mac and cheese all day every day, it's difficult to ensure they're eating the variety of colorful foods their growing body needs.  Luckily, there's a proven scientific method for teaching your kids to enjoy foods that might normally have them saying, "yuck!"

Read more about why your child is a fussy eater

Psychologist and pediatrics professor Dr. Keith Williams conducted a revelatory food experiment published in the journal Appetite which examined and improved the eating habits of an extremely picky 3-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl. Dr. Williams created a process to introduce new foods in small amounts to help the children develop a tolerance for eating new things.

According to Quartz, he would introduce unfamiliar foods in small amounts during "taste sessions":

Here’s the key: these tastes could be as small as a grain of rice, or a pea, to make the sampling as easy as possible for the children. They would be allowed to leave the room to play only after they tasted the new food.

This treatment also involved “probe meals” in which a child was presented with tablespoons of three or four different foods, not all of them new. In the “meals,” the children were instructed to take a bite of something, but were allowed to leave the room after 10 minutes, whether they had eaten or not. Crying and tantrums were ignored, but any time a child took a bite of food, they were praised and rewarded with positive attention.

Read 12 nutrition tips for picky eaters

After two weeks, the children were eating almost 50-70 new foods. This process of introducing new foods slowly and in small amounts can be used at home with your own picky eater. Try a tablespoon of a new food with a regular meal, but don't force it on them. The key in the experiment was ignoring tantrums while allowing the kids to eat other food—avoiding the often-exhausting battle of wills between child and parent. If a tablespoon is too much, try a smaller taste session with that particular food. If, on the other hand, a tablespoon works, you can gradually increase the amount.

Read more ways to make family meals healthy and fun

Dinnertime doesn't need to be a battle between getting your children adequate nutrition and keeping the peace, but exposing a picky eater to new food does require a bit of patience and some experimentation.

By Steph Davidson| April 09, 2017
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Steph Davidson

Steph Davidson

Steph is a writer and editor with a love of tea, books, and horror movies. Steph grew up under the impression that most meals came out of a box and had to contain some sort of animal protein. When an interest in a more environmentally friendly way of living led to her vegetarianism in 2012, she decided to teach herself how to cook. You can catch her kitchen wins (and the occasional opportunity for improvement) on Instagram @_stephinitely_.


Add A Comment


Allowed HTML: <b>, <i>, <u>


What's Fresh




In the Spotlight

  • Uncle Matt's

    Uncle Matt's is committed to growing & producing tasty, good for you organic juices & fruit. Our products are free of synthetic pesticides and GMOs. It’s the healthiest juice under the sun!

  • Bio-K +

    Recommended by health professionals & trusted by consumers looking for real results. There are 50 billion live & active reasons inside Bio-K+. Guaranteed potent & fresh, Bio-K+ delivers.

  • Natracare

    Since 1989, women around the world have chosen Natracare high quality, organic cotton, chlorine-free & natural feminine hygiene products with confidence.

Copyright © Agility Inc. 2018
Popup Image