Just try it, OK?

Say!
I like green eggs and ham!
I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!

— Dr. Seuss

Kids never believe it when you tell them their tastes will change, which is why some families find it helpful to have a rule requiring “no thank you” bites of rejected food. For others, however, it works better to let children reach that conclusion on their own.

I’m a big believer in not making food into a big “issue” at the dinner table. Forcing kids to eat all (or even most) of their vegetables would be like issuing an invitation to a high-noon standoff. It would only reinforce my kids’ perception that vegetables are the ugly stepsisters of the main dish. Instead, we have found that asserting certain neutral family rules, such as requiring children to take two “no thank you” bites of everything on their plate before they can have seconds of anything, is a good way to encourage children to try everything while avoiding power struggles. We sometimes also serve the vegetables first, while the main dish is still cooling off.

— Whitney R.

We raised our four children with two basic rules. The first rule was that every child had to eat all of what they served to themselves. The second was that they each had to eat at least one bite (a “no thank you very much” helping) of anything that was served to them.

There was one caveat: Each child could have one or two things that they absolutely did NOT have to eat ever at all. (None of them has ever had any known food allergies.) I told them that three or more items on the won’t-eat list would qualify them as picky eaters, and I was not interested in having any picky eaters. Their two things could change on occasion — like once a year, not every day! Today, with two of our children in college and two in high school, none of them is a picky eater; all enjoy many fruits and vegetables.

— Catherine D.

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