It is a truth universally acknowledged, that it is good thing to encourage children to try new foods. Even parents who don't put any pressure on their children to eat often tell them to "just try it!" . There is even an entire picky eating programmed based on the idea of trying small amounts of new foods - of which, more later.
With EAF (emotionally aware feeding), your child will learn to try new foods but the crucial factor is how that comes about.
There is strong evidence for the importance of a child experiencing a wide variety of flavours and textures in the battle against fussy eating, but that can come at a price. It's great if your child tries new foods of her own accord, but if that new flavour experience is at the expense of a relaxed meal with the focus OFF what the child is eating, the pay-off isn't worth it.
If you practice EAF, you will know that it's vital not to give your child the message that you want them to eat - the motivation to eat has to be internally not externally driven. This is something I've written about in more depth when looking at what happens when you praise picky eaters for eating well.
So how do you get your picky eater to try new foods without encouraging her? The answer is simple, but not easy. Serve up a wide variety of foods - give everything to everybody (no exceptions) even if you are pretty sure it will be rejected. Do this again and again and again. In War & Peas I explain precisely how and why this works - if you are feeling sceptical, try it!
If your child becomes used to being offered a varied diet and if being served unfamiliar foods becomes commonplace, she will start to try new things. Of course, there is a lot of hard work to be done behind the scenes in terms of disentangling emotional or behavioural issues from her eating habits, and this is where my book comes in.
The Tiny Taste Programme
This programme was developed at UCL (UK) and involves encouraging children to try small amounts of vegetables repeatedly. It is a reward - based system and children are given stickers in return for trying new flavours. The research show that children's vegetable consumption increases as a result of taking part in the programme. Here's my concern, though: Yes, research shows that multiple exposures to new foods increases acceptance and yes, it shows that rewarding eating certain foods is successful in the short term.
It also shows that the long term benefits are poor - if children are rewarded for eating certain things, they actually grow to like them less in the long term. This is something I have written about in relation to the use of reward charts with picky children. I think it makes much more sense to focus on improving children's relationship with food rather than concentrating on getting them to consume more at one particular sitting.
I would be extremely interested to see any long term research into the eating habits of the children who took part in Tiny Tastes - how will their eating be five years down the line and how will it be when they are adults, free to make their own choices?
Encouraging children to try new things might give you a short term win when they take a bite of something unfamiliar to please you, to get the sticker, to earn some praise. However, if you can enable your child to make all her choices about what she eats because of her internal cues, rather than external influence (her tummy, not her mummy...) it is an extremely effective way to eradicate picky eating.