Horizon Food Choice A commercial for a nutrition shake depicts a familiar scenario: a preschooler who refuses to eat what’s on his plate. His mother turns to the processed drink … the child likes it … problem solved!

Or is it? The child still hasn’t learned to accept new or different foods, and you can’t keep him on nutrition shakes indefinitely.

Introducing new foods to picky toddlers can take days, weeks or longer, but it’s an important step in early learning and will serve your child well in daycare programs, school and beyond.

Serve when she’s hungry. Cutting back on the between-meal snacks for a few days won’t harm your child and will serve to stimulate her hunger at mealtime. She may be more willing to take a bite of a new food under those circumstances.

Involve him in the kitchen. It’s easy to understand a toddler’s wariness when you simply dish out a new food with no prior information about it. Make the meal a more engaging experience by asking your child to help you prepare the new food. You can brainstorm ideas about cutting or shaping the food into fun shapes, or arranging it on the plate with the other food. With that sense of ownership, your toddler is more likely to be accepting of the food.

Try it yourself. Modeling behavior is ingrained in most toddlers’ learning process. They watch what you do and want to imitate. Without making a big show of it, eat and comment on the new food. But be prepared to model the behavior several times.

What to avoid

Generally, it’s counterproductive to insist the child eat an entire portion, imprison him at the table until the plate is clean, or send him to bed without dinner. Positive interactions work more effectively than negative ones.