I thought I would share with you a very useful tip I received from my daughter’s pediatrician when I was a new mom. I am reminded of this story as we receive lots of emails from parents saying how much they love trying out new foods but not sure if their kids will embrace the meals since they are picky and typically will only eat pasta with sauce, mac n cheese, or chicken nuggets.
Back when my daughter was about 2 years old, I was telling her pediatrician on a routine check up that we tried a certain food and my daughter did not like it (she was about 2) so we were moving on to try new things. He stopped me and said “Don’t do it- she will never learn to like new foods. Children’s taste buds often need to be exposed to a new food 14 times before they will enjoy the flavor. Keep trying”. Well I had never heard of that before but took his advice and kept on serving this food ( I believe it was yogurt) and one day I realized she had eaten it! I tried it again and again and each time she happily ate it. As she got older and my son was a toddler, I started telling the kids “You know your Dr says you might not like something until you try it 14 times so keep trying”. This became somewhat of a game in our house (they were little- 5 and 3) and when I gave them some sliced cantaloupe one day, they would say “oh this is only my 8th time trying this so I wont’ like it yet”. And yes when I served it a few times later they would eat it up and exclaim “the 14 times rule works- I love it!”. I think they bought into it quite literally and convinced themselves they would like it on the 14th time no matter what. I am not sure I ever really got 14 times (I am really not that patient) but after a handful of times, the kids jumped right to the end point. Whatever the reason I was just happy it worked. I ended up doing this with every fruit I could find and to this day I have to say my kids still love fruit and I often start a meal with a big bowl of fruit salad on the table which gets devoured almost every time.
I have since seen this fact written about in various parenting magazines (sometimes its referred to as the 15 times rule but same concept) and I think its one of those little tips that can make all the difference when dealing with preventing the picky eater syndrome. The natural reaction of most moms is to not serve a food again if it was refused the first time around. Who wants to serve food that just sits on the plate? However, as I learned if we don’t push a little with introducing new tastes and foods, you might be setting yourself up to have children who only want to eat a small variety of food. As many of us know, that can be exhausting when it comes to planning meals. Continually introducing your kids to new tastes and encourgaing them to be a bit adventuresome is one of the best place to start.