It’s tough to swallow for many moms and dads - a child who won’t eat or turns their nose up at anything new.
“Around year 2 through year 5, they become very selective in the foods that they eat. This is where we get the term ‘picky eater’,” says Dr. Pierre Loredo, pediatrician with Lee Memorial Health System.
To get children to expand their tastes and eat from all the food groups, many doctors recommend a simple process called food chaining.
“If you’re really concerned about your kid’s nutrition, there are a couple of techniques you could use. You could grab a banana, dip it in yogurt. Grab peanut butter, put it on apple slice. So you want to kind of combine foods and sneak in new foods in there,” says Dr. Loredo.
The idea is to start with something the child likes and build on it. Many times it’s a strange texture, color or shape that is throwing them off. The more kids eat something, even in small portions, the more they are to like it.
“Absolutely. Kids need to experience food 10 to 15+ times before they’ll enjoy it,” says Dr. Loredo.
Food chaining can also be used as a therapy for children with feeding problems who are failing to gain weight properly.
“We’re really concerned about malnutrition or not getting enough nutrition. We need to go ahead and speak with our pediatrician about this. At the doctor’s office, they would go through the history of dietary foods,” says Dr. Loredo.
Starting with preferred foods and textures, then creating a chain of new food options, may help the picky eater expand their palate.