By Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD
Picky eating is common amongst kids, particularly toddlers and preschoolers.
One strategy that many parents try with their picky eaters is the one-bite rule. The one-bite rule is when kids need to try one bite of every food on their plate (yes, even the vegetables).
While this rule works in many households, other parents try this technique and find that it not only doesn’t work, but it can backfire and cause their child to be more resistant to trying new foods.
In five years of working with families of picky eaters, I’ve discovered two requirements for making the one-bite rule work.
Requirement #1: Your Child’s Temperament
Temperament is the term used to describe the inherent way that a child responds emotionally and behaviorally to challenges or new situations. Some children are more outgoing and adventurous and some are more reserved and cautious. A child’s temperament will influence how he/she approaches eating.
The one-bite rule works well for kids who are more adventurous because they’re more comfortable jumping into new situations. For reserved kids, forcing them to take action before they’re ready just causes them to dig their heels. For more reserved kids, instead of the one-bite rule, let them choose whether or not to try foods on their plate. This way the cautious child can trust that he/she truly is in control and then he/she will try new foods on his/her own schedule.
Requirement #2: That it’s Okay to Not Like a Food
Because parents put so much effort and love into dishes, they want their family to enjoy it. So, it’s easy to respond to kids’ trying of the one bite with “It’s good right?” or perhaps “See, it’s not so bad. Try another bite”. These responses come from good intentions, but unfortunately they take away children’s ability to express their true feelings. The unfortunate side effect is that this pressure will make little ones less likely to try something because now they not only have to try it – they have to like it too!
If you choose to have the one-bite rule, it truly needs to be okay for your child to try a food and not like it.
Instead of attaching your feelings to how much kids like a food, enjoy connecting with them and sharing time as a family. This kind of unconditional love creates a pleasant environment at meals. Creating a pleasant environment at meals will have a great side effect of creating an environment that encourages (even cautious) kids to try new foods and get the nutrition that they need.
– Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD is known as The Dietitian Who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food Confident Kids. From introducing solids through the picky eating years, she helps Moms and Dads be confident that they’re giving their kids good nutrition today… and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: vitaminkconsulting.com