Prevent Table Wars by Using These 8 Tips to Introduce New Foods

Do you struggle to get your family to eat healthy foods? Prevent table wars by using these 8 tips to introduce new foods. With a few tactics, you can be serving up healthy meals without sacrificing peace at the table.

Sometimes offering variety can feel like a losing battle. Maybe you’ve already raised the white flag and simply fix the kids’ favorites, even if it means preparing a second meal. Instead, set your table for success using a few pre-meal strategies before you even think of calling the troops to dinner.

Preemptive Plan

1. Start with prayer. I am not referring to mealtime recitations, but warfare prayer. You probably understand the need to pray for your children’s health, but do you include their eating habits? Pray specifically for your family’s willingness to try new dishes. Ask God for extra patience for the adults around the table. Although it is our responsibility to provide nutritious choices for our families, God does not leave us to our own devices. We can ask for his strength and power for all our efforts, including what we serve our loved ones.

2. Model the behavior you hope to see. For most people, it takes a bit of courage to taste something unfamiliar. If you expect this of your child, be brave yourself. Watch for opportunities to taste new dishes and share your thoughts aloud: “I’ve never tried this before! What is it? How is it made?” If you show interest and curiosity in culinary diversity, your children just may follow suit.

3. Involve your kids in the planning and shopping. Meal planning not only saves money but ensures a balanced menu. Involve your children by pouring over recipes together, preferably with pictures. Allow your children to choose something new for the family to try. In her picture book, Eat God’s Food, Susan Neal provides a fun checklist for fruits and vegetables. If you shop on-line, your children can still be a part of the decision-making process. Including your children in the planning and shopping gives children a sense of ownership and just might inspire them to try the foods they chose.

4. Invite your kids into the kitchen. Even a small child can snap beans, arrange grapes on a plate, and stir salad. The more they see, smell, and touch different foods, the more willing children are to taste them. The same holds true in the garden. When my kids were small, their pride in helping among the carrots and peas transferred to the table as they passed their veggies around. For more ideas to involve kids in the kitchen, see Susan Neal’s blog Eat God’s Food: A Guide to Healthy Eating.

Once you have completed the praying, planning and preparations, it’s time to eat. To avoid mealtime mayhem, try these tips.

In the Trenches

5. Pray again. This time, I do mean the mealtime prayer. Begin by thanking God for his bounty and then list specific menu items, especially if any are new. “Thank you, God, for these delicious potatoes we all love! Thank you also for broccoli. Thank you for the vitamins and fiber broccoli provides to make our bodies healthy.” God reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Even on broccoli nights.

6. Include familiar foods with new ones. We want everyone to leave the table feeling satisfied until the next snack or meal, so offering one with only unfamiliar items is not realistic. New foods should accompany a meal you know your children will eat.

7. Encourage tiny bites. (No forcing—more on that later.) Even adults prefer to take a small bite before they ingest something new, as evidenced by store sampling. The goal is to encourage our children to try something different, not eat an entire plate of it. Who knows, a tiny taste today may lead to a bigger bite tomorrow.

8. Experiment. When my children were young, I discovered one liked their veggies cooked, two preferred raw, and one even enjoyed frozen peas right out of the bag. With diverse ways of cooking, and adding dips or sauces, you may stumble upon a combination that works.

What if some refuse even a nibble. Is it a battle worth fighting?

Operational Assessment

Don’t give up! It can take around 15-20 attempts to offer a child the same food before they will even try it. In the book, The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, author Elizabeth Pantley suggests, “By making small adjustments over time, your child’s taste buds will adjust until you can finally replace the old versions with a healthier alternative.”

Lay down weapons of pressure, shame, and punishment. Associating food with strong negative emotions will certainly backfire. As a young girl, I once ate dinner at a friend’s house where they served red beets which I had never seen, smelled, or tasted. The rules in this house included “everyone eats everything offered at the table.” It took about twenty-five years for me to try beets again. The memory still makes my tummy turn.

It’s okay if they don’t like everything. You certainly do not like every food in existence, nor can we expect it of our children. Remembering that our tastes are as varied as the foods God created, takes the pressure off everyone.

Finally, start small. Just as we encourage tiny bites at the table, choose just one of these tips as a first step toward a healthier menu.

Sitting down to new dinners does not have to lead to war. Instead, with thoughtful preparation and positivity, mealtime can be a peaceful place of collaboration, experimentation, and healthy eating. Bon Appetit!

About the Author

As a recovering picky eater, Gretchen Huesmann is passionate about nutrition education. She offers health education talks and speaks at women’s events and teacher conferences around the country. She is an affiliate with the Juice Plus+™ company which provides fruits and veggies in capsule and gummy form and Tower Gardens.™ Connect with Gretchen on her website and social media: Learn more about Juice Plus: and

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