The other day, we sat down to dinner and immediately I heard the word "yucky" from my preschooler. And while I realize that some of your little ones might not quite be talking as much as my 4 year old is, the day will come my friends. I have a firm "you don't have to eat it" rule and I remind her about manners, but it's really hard when the kids don't want to even taste what you've spent time and energy cooking.
To help us all know how best to handle these situations in the future, I reached out to some of my favorite healthy mamas to see what they do when this happens at their table.
"When my kids think something is yucky without trying it, we don't make a fuss about it at that moment. But I do try to determine what I could change about it for them to try it the next time. For example, if a child doesn't like applesauce because of the texture, next time, I might try raw apples. If someone doesn't' like cooked carrots, we might go for sauteed carrots. Respecting their reasons for not trying something could help a great deal in finding what they do like!" —Amy Roskelley, Super Healthy Kids
"I always say "You don't have to try it" in a very nonchalant way so my child doesn't feel pressured or on the defensive. I would also remind my child that we don't call a meal yucky because someone has taken the time and care to prepare it—and other people at the table may really enjoy that meal. Finally I try to get some clues about why my child feels that way. Is it the appearance of the food? The smell? How it's mixed with other foods? Perhaps the food could be offered in a slightly different way next time—not catering to my child's demands, just offering it in different ways. Or maybe it will just take more exposures, and that's okay too." — Sally, Real Mom Nutrition
"Kids’ “yucky food” radar can go off well before they even taste something. The color, texture, or presentation can make them turn up their nose with one look. My oldest daughter is very picky and doesn’t like food that is mashed or pureed, except for mashed potatoes. Once I see her start wrinkling her nose up at a food, I’ll remind her how much she likes something similar and that she should try it. If she still finds the food offensive after sampling it, that’s OK. She’s getting more open minded as she gets older, so that’s something!" —Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Food for You and Your Family.
And here are some awesome ideas from the parents in my Facebook group:
- Alexson: "I do not like them, Sam I am!" We always play Green Eggs and Ham and he puts up a little (play) fuss before trying a bite. Then, he usually decides he loves it (just like the book) and gobbles it up. Or, he says no thank you and gets a spoon full of Sunbutter and raisins for dinner.
- Lauren: We've started trying to say 'just touch it to your tongue!"
- Teresa: I usually say "I like it because I tried it! Watch mom do it! It works about 50% of the time.
- Katie: I tell them "I love yucky food" then I pretend to eat it like Cookie Monster or a Dino.
- Lila Jo: I actually don't allow my children to say food I cook (or anywhere else) is yucky. With 5 kids, it starts a horrible spiral of nobody eating anything I cook because a sibling doesn't like it. Also, their dad and I eat VERY differently and neither way is bad, just different. So when they say they don't want to try X on their plate, we do a "try it" bite. I try and offer enough dinner choices that they can choose to not eat a dish and still have enough healthy options to fill their belly.
- Jenny: "We don't yuck other people's yum, it's not polite & could hurt other people's feelings". Approaching it from a manners perspective rather than a judgement of the food has led to way less arguments...I refuse to negotiate with toddlers, so this just shuts it down as a behavior that we don't do as a family because it's not nice.
- Heather: "Eat it or don't eat it, but don't say you don't like it without tasting it."
- Caitlin: Mine doesn't talk yet but he doesn't like it by facial reactions or throwing it on the ground. I say eat or play. If he raises his arms I take him out to play. Plate goes in fridge to attempt again later. Not being an ala cart menu is difficult at times, sometimes he flat out wont eat.
- Anna: I say "Whaaattttt?!" "I love ____!" And then I won't push it anymore, but I will eat it in front of him to set an example and will continue to present it to him—and eventually when in a better mood, he does try it. Most of the time.
- Katie: I sing Daniel Tiger's "you gotta try a new food cuz it might taste good!" And they sing along with me and then usually take at least one bite.