Ways to Encourage Children to Have Positive Attitudes Toward Food

Food Preparation and Snack Time Activities are a Shared Responsibility

  • Have a positive attitude toward foods and the mealtime experience. Remember, a negative attitude expressed by adults and children may influence other children not to try that food.
  • When introducing new food to children, serve a small amount of the new food along with more popular and familiar foods.
  • Include children in the food activities to encourage children to try new foods and also to gain self-confidence.
  • Serve finger foods such as meat or cheese cubes, vegetable sticks, or fruit chunks. Foods cut smaller are easier for children to handle.
  • Do not force a child to eat. Children often go through food jags. It is normal for a child to ask for second helpings of food one day, yet eat very lightly the next day.
  • Provide a comfortable atmosphere at mealtime. Mealtime is also a social activity. Therefore, allow children to talk with others.
  • Encourage children to eat food or new foods in a low-key way. For instance, read a book about a new food that will be served that day, and serve the new food at snack time when children are hungrier.
  • Introduce a new food five or six times over a few weeks, instead of only once or twice. The more exposure children have to a food, the more familiar and comfortable it becomes and the more likely they will be to try the food.
  • Offer the new food to a child who eats most foods. Children usually follow other children and try the food.
  • Have staff eat with the children. Have them eat the same foods that have been prepared for the children.
  • Do not offer bribes or rewards for eating foods. This only reinforces that certain foods are not desirable. Respect refusals.

Caregivers are responsible for:

  • What foods are offered
  • When foods are offered
  • Where foods are offered

Children are responsible for determining:

  • What foods they eat
  • How much, or even if, they eat

Taken fromHealthy Heart Snack Choices, a facts sheet from the Cornell Cooperative Extension; Cornell University, Plainview, New York