Kids like what they like – macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, chicken fingers, cheese, and bread. But stubborn overuse of this blandly colored plate of food often leaves parents pulling their hair out.  So, what can you do to help your kids try new things, even when dining out? Check out these tips to influence your kids to try new food options:

  1. Give them options, one at a time.  And, offer these options at the beginning of the meal when your child is most hungry.  This establishes a tradition at restaurants that doesn’t overwhelm kids with a plate full of unrecognizable items (which can really freak them out).  Order the chicken fingers just like they want, but instead of the usual side order of French fries, pick another option like a salad or fruit.
  2. Order an appetizer for the whole family. This is a clever way to introduce new food options. Since appetizers come before the meal, that’s when they will be the hungriest and are likely to give it a try (plus, the wait for the food is shorter, so it’s a bonus for the parents).
  3. Let them choose from the menu. Give them a few options from the menu and omit the option they usually want. If they still say they want chicken fingers, we suggest trying tip #4.
  4. Visit a restaurant of ethnic cuisine. Most of these restaurants will have a kids menu that doesn’t include the traditional chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese.  In this case, you get kid-friendly, usually blander versions of the main entrees (in kid-sized portions).  For instance, a kabob from a Mediterranean restaurant includes kid-friendly meat and vegetables.
  5.  Share a plate.  We use this option in my family of four. We order two or three different entrees from the regular menu and split them.  Usually, one of the options is a family favorite so there is a backup for the kids.

How do you get your kids to try new food?  Share your own tips with us in the comments section below.