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What Is Food Neophobia and How To Deal With It?

Does your four-year-old start making faces and refuse to even try your dish once? Welcome to the Club!

Parents often go through this phase where their kids refuse to try novel foods or unknown foods. Parents consider their children are picky eaters or fussy eaters. It is often found in young children.

Food Neophobia is generally considered as the avoidance of new foods or reluctance to taste new food.

Neophobia is the fear of accepting the new food. Neophobia is mainly appeared during the first critical stage i.e. weaning stage or first starting solids stage(4-8months of age) where the baby refuses to accept a new food.

Factors that cause eating disorders or Neophobia:

  • Genetics: it is the major factor in food neophobia. The tendency to seek the new food and avoid of novel foods have been related to genetics or heritable component.

  • Psychosocial / Psychological Factors: such as motivation, personality and attitudes towards food and nutrition had been essentially influencing. Young children get influenced by their parents “ food preferences “, and tend to avoid food which their parents avoid.

  • Environmental Occurrence - is an influencing level of food neophobia. Sometimes a food poisoning experience can lead to avoiding all novel foods.

  • Flavour learning: this is another possible cause for neophobia. There are four basic flavours receptors salty, bitter, sour and sweet. Naturally, sweets and salty flavours are prefered by babies.

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Characteristics of food neophobia :

  • One of the characteristics of food neophobia is that children believe that new foods will have an unpleasant taste. Thus, it’s important to create positive experiences when it comes to making your child try new foods.

  • Children learn by action or by imitation. Ex: if your child sees you eating certain fruits and vegetables and showing signs that you like it, it's very likely that your child is ready to try it. Since observational behaviour is exhibited by children, it is imperative for parents to create and make “eating” a happy experience for themselves and their little bubs.

Join our Cloudnine Community to discuss further regarding - First Time Pregnancy, Baby Behavior, Starting Solids.

The best way to handle food Neophobia: Encourage your child to know the development of a beneficial diet. It's important to keep in mind that parents should have an idea of each of the foods. For example, a restrictive attitude towards tasty foods makes a child’s preference for them to increase. But a liberal attitude towards certain foods tends to have the opposite effect.

Tips To Deal With The Food Neophobic Kids

Be patience and creative: We cannot offer a child a plate full of something they have never eaten before and expected them to finish it. Ideally, start small, with small portions of the new food. You can also present the new food to your child in such a way that they don’t even notice its presence.

There are camouflages that can be attempted while trying new food to the extent of the child not even noticing it.

1. Take it slow:

a baby girl doesn't want to eat watermelon[/caption]We know you want your kids to adapt to healthy eating as quickly as possible. But, don’t rush; give your kids time to get familiar with the food. Let them explore, play and interact with food. It is a part of developing their taste senses. Acceptance could be a matter involving time, hence it is good to keep up hope and choose to try until you succeed.

2. Don’t force on them:

You may lose your patience sometimes and feel like shouting and punishing them for their stubbornness. Such actions and negative emotions will only increase the chances of rejection. Try to encourage them instead. Support them when they try something new.

3. Make things fun:

You love playing and spending time with your kids. So, why not while cooking too. You can always make the process fun by using your creativity. For example; involve your kids while cooking something new, so that they get familiar with it and find it easier to consume. You could involve them when you go to the vegetable store — the colour of vegetables and fruits can also help in evincing interest in trying new foods for good health.

Also, read - Summer recipes for your kid.

4. You eat it and probably they will try it:

Yes, you may be one of the reasons for them being Food Neophobic. Kids do get influenced by their parents’ food preferences. So, if you want your kid to eat everything, then first you will have to change your food habits. Set a good example for them. Then you should choose to change your food habits if it needs a makeover! Eat with all family members together at least once a day. So that your baby enjoys your presence they will eat along with you without showing any rejection towards any food.

It is important that parents do not show their resentment towards new tastes or new foods as well! Facial expressions matter too. Being neutral to all tastes is important!

5. Make it look familiar:

It is always better to make new things a bit familiar with your kiddo. If your kid likes eating chips, then you may have an option to introduce any new vegetable to your kid in the form of chips. This way, he is less likely to reject it.

6. Wait for the right time:

Timing does matter when you are dealing with your little ones. Make sure you don’t offer new foods to your kids, when they are tired, angry or not in a good mood. If your junior is a bit hungry, then it can be an ideal time to introduce him to a new food.

7. Try in small quantities:

It is important to try something new in your baby’s plate only in small quantities. With all the other above said points also considered and implemented, “new” is still a new element for a growing baby. Though it may be challenging, interest in new food for a toddler is cultivable by well-spaced trials.

Must Read - Giving your Toddler a Balanced Diet

8. Be a good role model:

Children are great imitators. If your child sees you eating food, he is more likely to be interested and keen to try it. Children will need role-modelling and lots of encouragement from parents to try new food. Parents are the best role model for their children.

9. Get them used to raw food:

At the green leafy stores and in the market, get your child to appreciate the colours, smells and shapes of vegetables. Teach them to identify different fruits and vegetables and teach them to identify the colour of each food. Then, ask them their opinion: “Which one do you fancy ?”, “Which one would you like?”, etc.

Another possibility is to go and pick the vegetables together in a vegetable garden, this will keep them interested and will make them want to try it.

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Watch Video on Diet During Pregnancy:

And finally: it is important to develop the child’s role in relation to their food. They should be complimented on their choice and thanked for their assistance if they help to prepare the meal or lay the table. In general, it is a great task for parents to be more creative, patience and convenience towards your baby acceptance of new food.

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