Neophobia, a fear of trying new foods.
For young children this can mean they are skeptical of foods that they have never tried before, food prepared differently than they are used to or even foods that they just haven’t eaten in awhile. This is much of what we parents call “picky eaters”, but is actually an expected phase of childhood which is all very normal. This can be alarming to parents, especially if their child used to eat everything as a baby, but the more we can keep this in perspective as a normal phase of development, the better we’ll be able to keep on trucking through it!
In adults, food neophobia is associated with poor quality of diet such as reduced intake of fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fats and increased consumption of saturated fat and salt. This raises the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet that includes a variety of foods is an independent key to good health. This may help reduce potential future health problems.
Tips For Dealing with Neophobia
Start with savory over sweet foods. A child’s palate adapts to the first foods offered. Provide a variety of different tastes and textures when introducing solid food.
Keep meal time positive. Kids can sense anxiety. Try to remain calm and positive when serving meals.
Don’t coerce or force your child into eating. This may make your child tense or upset and fussy traits may be exacerbated.
Be encouraging. Try not to say things like, “you probably won’t like this,” which may set up a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Offer one bite of a new food, but don’t force your child to eat the whole plate. A child may refuse a new food due to fear of disliking texture, taste, or smell. Have them try one bite to start.
Be a role model. Make meal time fun with a variety of foods. Smile when you eat different foods and your child’s curiosity may overcome his/her anxiety or dislike of the food.
Offer nutrient-dense foods cut in interesting shapes and sizes. Kids may be more likely to try a crinkle carrot or melon ball over traditional shapes of fruits and vegetables.
Give some praise for trying new foods. Kids need positive reinforcement to build confidence in overcoming neophobia.
Don’t reward eating with more eating (i.e. desserts). Kids will see eating foods they dislike as a means to an end when dessert is offered. They may not even taste or experience the food. Offering treats as reinforcement may also influence emotional eating.
Be patient. It can take 10-15 trials of a new food before a child prefers it. Don’t give up!
Check back with us soon for our next post for Heart Health month!
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DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information is for informational purposes and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any illness. Consult a physician before taking any action.
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