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Overcoming "I Don't Like It"

One of Henry's current favorite sayings is "I don't like it." He started using it a few weeks ago for all sort of situations, everything from naptime to visiting the walruses at the zoo. Mealtimes are no exception.

Henry uses "I don't like it" when he does not want to eat the food on his plate, often before he has even given it a try. Frequently, he will want to eat one dish exclusively at a meal without tasting the others. Since Henry can now understand simple when/then statements, Daddy and I decided it was time to implement the taste test rule for Henry. 
Good morning! What will Henry want to eat today?
Here is our take on how to encourage Henry to continue to try a variety of foods using the taste test rule. Some families call this strategy "no thank you bites," "green eggs & ham bites" or "the one bite rule."

We start by putting a small portion of each dish on Henry's plate. If he wants extra helpings of any of the foods, then we ask him to first taste each of the others. We emphasize that he does not have to like it, but he does have to taste it. 

If Henry tries the other foods on his plate and decides that he does not like them, we respond with "Thank you for tasting it. Maybe you will like it next time." Then, he may have a second serving of his favorite food at the meal. If he wants a third helping of a particular food, then he needs to first take an additional taste of at least one other food on his plate. 

We want to continue to respect Henry's decisions about how much food to eat. If he does not want to continue eating, then he can be excused from the table. If he does not ask for seconds, then we do not request that he take another bite.
This morning, Henry only wanted to eat yogurt with blueberries. Since he did not ask for seconds, I did not ask him to keep eating the other foods on his plate.

How does this work in practice?
  • At breakfast this morning, we had yogurt with blueberries, fresh pineapple and scrambled egg (Henry's least favorite foods are eggs and mashed potatoes). Henry ate about 2/3 of the yogurt, and then said that he was all done. At that time, he was excused from the table without any further pressure to eat more. 
  • For dinner tonight, we had bbq pulled pork sandwiches, grated carrots with vinaigrette, and slices of fresh pear. Henry started by only eating the bread from his sandwich and the pear. He promptly asked for more bread and pears. We asked him to first try the meat and carrots. He chose to eat four or five bites of pork and two bites of carrots. He then declared that he did not like the carrots. Since he had tasted all of the foods on his plate, we served up another half slice of bread and two slices of pear. Henry ate all of the pear and half of the bread before deciding that he was finished with his meal.
Henry asks for more pear before he has even finished his first helping.

Henry taste tests his pulled pork.
We hope that this approach will encourage Henry to continue to listen to his body's signals about what to eat and how much, while helping him to keep his palate open to trying a wide array of foods and flavors.


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