What is Food Chaining?

Krystyn Parks, MS, RD

Food chaining is a technique health care providers use to help picky eaters incorporate new foods (not to be confused with the food chain which outlines who eats whom in the wild). Basically, the parent identifies a food the child likes then gradually makes alterations until the child is able to introduce a completely new food. The key to success is to make very minor alterations and to have the child be involved (don’t try to sneak a new food past a very picky eater, they WILL notice!). Studies show that food chaining can be a really useful tool for the parents of super picky eaters who may even notice the difference between brands.


How to Chain Foods

  1. Start by figuring out the characteristics of foods that your child likes. Look at the color, shape, flavor, smell, and texture of the food. Does your child only like fish crackers and refuses crackers in any other shape? Do they like apples cut up but reject a whole apple? Have discussions with your child on what they like about certain foods.
  2. Once you have established why your child likes a certain food, try to find a similar food that has some differences. For example, if they like the cheesy flavor of a fish cracker, see if you can find another cheesy cracker in a different shape. If they like cut up apples, try cutting them in different ways so that they are different shapes or pick a different type of apple for some variety.
  3. When you introduce the new food, have a discussion with your child and have them rate the new version compared to the old version. If your child completely rejects the new version, consider waiting a few days before trying again or try making a different change.
  4. Continue to make changes gradually over time to help widen your child’s palate. This should be done slowly as big changes can overwhelm the child. You can also incorporate fun utensils or food picks to encourage your child to try new foods.
  5. Talk to your Foublie coach if you are getting stuck or if you need ideas on how to make some of these changes.


Some Food Chaining Ideas

  • French fries from a restaurant → baked fries at home → potato wedges → baked potato
  • Applesauce pouch → applesauce served into a bowl eaten with a spoon → applesauce with diced apples → cut up apples
  • Chicken nuggets from a restaurant → chicken nuggets baked at home (similar shape) → chicken nuggets at home (different shape) → fish sticks → baked fish


Up Next: Arranging your child’s plate so they’re more likely to eat