Are you already worried you may have a picky eater on your hands, even though your baby just started eating solids? Below, I’ll share a few tricks you can try to help Baby expand his or her palate and try new flavors and foods.
First, I have a confession: I was a formerly picky eater. Oh yes, I was that baby who would only eat fruit or sweet foods. My mom would have to give me one bite of veggies followed up quickly with a few spoonfuls of fruit so I wouldn’t spit out the vegetables! Even as a young adult, I was still extremely particular about trying new things because I was just certain I wasn’t going to like it.
When I had my children, I was determined not to let them grow up as picky eaters. It’s not a fun life, really–refusing foods or making a special request when everyone around you is eating and enjoying the meal. Thankfully, there are several “tricks” I’ve tried with my three kids that have helped them become adventurous eaters!
My eldest son was an adventurous eater from the start. Early on, he enjoyed foods that “normal babies” wouldn’t touch. As a toddler, soup was a favorite, and even now that he’s a teenager, it still is one of his go-to meals. My second son started off differently with dining, moving quickly out of the pureed baby food stage, preferring to eat what Mom and Dad were eating. However, as a toddler, suddenly there were foods he previously enjoyed that he would no longer touch! I was afraid that I was going to have a picky eater on my hands. Only now that he’s 5 will he try foods that he formerly refused. Tonight, he tasted split pea soup for the first time and pronounced it, “Delicious!” My baby daughter has only been eating solids for a few months and she’s been a joy to feed! I’ve been trying these little tricks with her too, expanding her palate and appetite for new flavors.
Be sure to check with your baby’s pediatrician for guidelines on what foods are acceptable for Baby in the first year and what foods should be avoided.
1. Keep an open mind.
“There is no way my baby is going to eat this.” Remove that thinking from your process! Babies are naturally curious and if you keep a happy face during meal time, Baby will be excited to try what you offer. Even when Baby refuses a particular food, stay positive about it and don’t get discouraged! It’s only one meal; you’ll be able to try again in a few hours.
2. Take it slowly at first.
Check with Baby’s pediatrician for their recommendation on when to start solids. I started my daughter with very smooth purees at 6 months old. At first, she would only take a few spoonfuls of food at one sitting. This is totally normal. Baby’s stomach is so tiny! At first, feed Baby one-ingredient foods, like pureed bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, and peas. Many moms follow “baby-led weaning” by skipping pureed foods and going straight to well-cooked, very soft foods in tiny pieces that Baby can feed to himself.
3. Mix it up.
Once Baby is eating well at each meal, try different combinations together. Mix together two or three flavors in a blend that will have her tiny taste buds dancing! Consider mixing pumpkin with apples or zucchini puree with pears. My daughter refused to eat pureed meats at first, but when I combined a spoonful of the meat in with a pureed vegetable, she gobbled it right up!
4. Add a little spice.
If your baby is enjoying solids foods, try adding a dash of spice! I add a little bit of pumpkin pie spice to my daughter’s whole wheat ground cereal in the morning and she always eats a big bowl! This week, she ate carrots, pureed turkey and a dash of dried thyme. Try cinnamon in applesauce, nutmeg in the pumpkin puree, curry in the butternut squash or chopped rosemary with peas. A little spice goes a long way, so go easy at first to see how Baby’s tongue and tummy react to the flavors.
5. Forgo bland “white” foods.
White foods are often the diet staples of a picky eater! Skip the bland white foods and opt for their colorful and more flavorful counterpart. Avoid white bread and offer Baby bits of nutty whole grain toast instead. Instead of white potatoes, give Baby steamed sweet potato chunks. Use whole wheat pasta instead of pasta made with white flour. Switch out white rice for brown rice and Baby will be not only expanding his taste buds, he’s getting more nutrients as well.
6. Try texture.
Add texture to Baby’s meal to get her used to a wide variety of consistencies. Mix in dry ground baby cereals (like oats) to a puree to make it of a thicker consistency. Offer cooked brown rice, lentils or quinoa. Steam broccoli and mix it in cheesy whole wheat pasta. Sprinkle ground flaxseed onto tiny bits of melon to create a grainy texture that will be easier for Baby to pick up with her fingers.
7. Think more savory and less sweet.
You probably won’t have any problem getting your baby to eat sweeter foods, so keep the focus on expanding his palate of savory flavors. Sauté onions or garlic until very tender and add to Baby’s bowl of soft beans or lentils. Blend greens like spinach or kale into a fruit smoothie for your older baby to drink. Once Baby’s pediatrician approves it, try offering flakey bits of fish like salmon or tuna.
8. Offer just one bite of something new.
When your baby is approaching preschool age, their opinions about certain foods will be very strong! I’ve always offered just one bite of something new on their plate with encouragement to try it. I must have offered my son one bean on his plate 20 times before he actually ate one! No bribing and no forcing needing; he tried it when he was ready and now he loves all beans.
9. Take the “no pressure” approach.
If there is one thing I’ve learned after raising three children, it’s that the low-key approach is best during meal times. Offer food, and if Baby refuses a bite, try once more. If she refuses again, try again in a few weeks. Baby will eat when she is hungry. No pressure and no stress for Baby…or you!