How to Arrange your Kids Plate so Your Kid Will Eat
Vanessa Millovich, DCN RDN LDN
So one thing you can try to take on picky eating is how you serve food. Check out these plate tips!
Use Safe Foods
When trying any new food, or even a food that maybe they have tried in the past, it is important to place the food on a plate with other foods that they are already comfortable with. You can start by placing 1 bite/1 spoonful of the new food on the plate, next to the other foods they already know. If they have food they love already on their plate they can relax that there is something they love and they are more likely to try other new things on the plate!
Include similar foods to the ones they already eat
Children can take great comfort from eating the same foods day in and day out. One way to help a child learn to like a new food, is to talk with them about how it is similar or different from what they currently eat. Do they love rice? Try something like farro. Describe it as a brown version of rice. You would be surprised what kids will try when they are exposed to it.
Embrace Shapes and Faces
You can also physically arrange foods on a plate in a fun shape or color pattern, to engage your child in that way, with mealtime. You can make a simple flower design with cut up apple slices for the petals and a berry or grape pieces as the center. Other ways to arrange a plate in an enticing way can include using smaller cookie cutters to make sandwiches into fun shapes – like stars, hearts, or flowers.
Don’t Plate it At All
One way to take the pressure off eating is to let kids serve themselves or point to the things they want. You serve the food family style on the table or let them pick what they want you to heat up for them. The key here is that YOU pick the options they can choose from and they pick which ones they want. It can be really hard to let go here, especially if they only pick the bread, but over time this method will actually encourage them to pick more options and feel in control of what they are eating!
The Bottom Line
Toddlers and young kids are skeptical of new foods. They have to be! It is the way they have been protected from running off and trying poisonous berries for centuries. Don’t make it about immediately eating the new food, but instead about experiencing the smell, texture, temperature, and similarities to something else they enjoy eating. Don’t take it personally if they immediately refuse to engage in this with you or if they refuse to even pick up the new food. Move on and know that you can try again tomorrow, with the same food or with a different new food. No matter how creative you may get with the design of your child’s plate, you can never go wrong with a relaxed attitude at meal times and using the 80/20 rule – 80% of the plate consists of foods they know and love and 20% can be foods they kind of like and maybe are just now learning about.