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Encouraging Exploration: Helping Picky Eaters Discover New Foods

A mother smiling and holding a young child while another child prepares food on the kitchen counter, surrounded by fresh ingredients
Navigating the world of picky eaters is a journey many parents face. It can often feel like a balancing act, filled with concerns about their nutritional intake. By fostering a sense of patience, creativity, and exploration, we can shift from tense meals to moments of discovery. Remember, gradual exposure plays a crucial role, so if a new food isn’t an instant hit, don’t be disheartened. Our goal is to creatively introduce varied foods, flavours, and textures, sparking curiosity beyond the plate.

Laying the Foundation: Patience and Positivity

 Imagine the first-time nerves of meeting someone new or dipping your toes into chilly water. Similarly, for picky eaters, tasting a new food can be overwhelming. Their initial reluctance isn’t defiance but unfamiliarity. Instead of labeling them as “picky,” it’s vital to create an understanding, supportive environment. By reframing our approach, we focus not just on expanding their food choices but fostering a positive, open attitude towards meals.

Recognizing this is not only important to helping your child overcome these eating patterns, but also important in the way you treat yourself as a parent. Be kind and patient with them and yourself, and know that while there may be setbacks along the way, that you are not a bad parent and focus on the process rather than individual frustrations.

Dynamic Ways to Introduce Foods

  1. Close-up of a child's hand reaching for fresh strawberries on a kitchen countertopAt the Dinner Table: Variety can be infused right at our dining tables. Consider simply placing a new dish during dinner, letting curiosity take the lead. Or introduce a hint of fun, transforming foods into delightful shapes or creating snack-sized servings. The idea is to gradually move from known favourites to newer choices, like transitioning from regular pasta to different noodle types or trying alternatives to traditional fries.
  2. Adding a novelty: Sometimes, making a new food fun can encourage them to try it. Think of how they enjoy samples at a store like Costco. You can create a similar experience by cutting the food into fun shapes like stars or serving it in a muffin liner with a toothpick for easy and enjoyable exploration.
  3. Chain eating: Try switching out foods for similar options. For instance, if your child enjoys pasta, you can make it with a different type of noodle. If they like fries, consider making roasted carrot sticks for a change. This way, you’re introducing variety without making it feel too unfamiliar.

Beyond the Mealtime: Engaging with Food's Journey

Young child walking through a garden path carrying a basket, surrounded by lush greenery.Connecting children with the origin of their food can be an enlightening experience. Be it through fruit-picking adventures, assisting in meal preparations, understanding the farm-to-table process, or turning grocery trips into explorative games; there’s a world of food discovery waiting to be explored.

  1. From the source: Take your child fruit picking or involve them in growing vegetables in your garden. Watching a seed grow into a plant can also be a fascinating way to connect them with the food’s origins.
  2. Helping with meal prep: Getting your child involved in meal preparation can build essential life skills while also allowing them to engage with the food they eat! Taste-testing during the process and seeing individual ingredients come together like a work of art can be a great way for them to explore food in a different way than a prepared dish. You can start small, like having them wash vegetables or mix a salad or pasta.
  3. From farm to table: Exploring where food comes from and how it makes its way to your child’s plate can be a great educational and exploratory activity. Understanding the journey from the farm to the table can also create a deeper appreciation for food in them.
  4. Grocery trips: Turn grocery shopping into a fun adventure! Ask your child about foods they are familiar with and make it a game to find something new they’ve never seen before. You can then compare it with some foods they do know, in terms of colour, shape, and size.

Interested in learning about some other amazing benefits of gardening? We also have some great tips and beginner’s steps to growing your own garden here!

Embracing the Exploration Process

Three bowls of green smoothie topped with sliced fruits, nuts, and seeds on a textured blue background.Tackling the preferences of hesitant eaters requires patience. Remember, every food has its unique nutritional value. Our aim? To gradually diversify their palate, ensuring a rich nutrient intake. Instead of dwelling on their dislikes, let’s emphasize the beauty of exploration, nurturing their curiosity, and fostering a lasting positive relationship with food.

Learn more about the importance of aiming for a goal of increased variety

Reaching Out for Professional Help

While picky eating is a common phase in childhood, prolonged and extreme aversion to many foods, might be something more serious. If your child’s limited food preferences are causing significant distress or affecting their health, it’s time to consider whether working with a health professional like a dietitian can support both you and them.


Our dietitians here at Nourishing Balance can support you and your child by finding individualized strategies to take the pressure off your family mealtimes. If you are interested in connecting with our amazing dietitians, click here to learn more about our services or book a free 15-minute discovery call.



Nourishing Balance Integrative Health Team

Nourishing Balance Integrative Health Team provides holistic health services across Canada. We work to understand your goals and establish a plan to help you thrive. Our integrative health team consists of registered dietitians, psychotherapists, social workers, and nurse practitioners.

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