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“I’m bringing a fruit salad to the block party” Ian’s grandfather said to him enthusiastically. “It’s got all the fruits you like: watermelon, grapes, blueberries, orange slices…”
“But what are those red things?” Ian asked skeptically.
“Oh, those are strawberries. You will like them. They taste like candy, just like blueberries do,” his grandpa said.
Ian became nervous. He is a picky eater and he thought there would be at least one thing at the block party that he liked. But now one food is touching another food, a new food, and he wasn’t expecting that.
“But the strawberries look bumpy and weird, not like the other fruit,” he said. “And they’re touching everything else!”
“Just pick around it, Ian. Why do you have to be so difficult? ” his grandfather exclaimed, frustrated.
At the block party, Ian had fun, but he definitely didn’t have any fruit. He was too distracted worrying about the strawberries and whether or not they touched the other fruits in the bowl. He didn’t know much about strawberries. He just knew that they looked really bumpy and different from the fruits he liked.
Feeding picky eaters is not always simple. We are here to help you through the struggles, starting with this guide to help you teach kids to eat strawberries. You’ll learn more about:
- The benefits of strawberries for kids
- How to serve strawberries to picky eaters
- How to talk about strawberries to help your child try them
- How to help your child understand what strawberries do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with strawberries
Strawberry Benefits for Kids
There are many nutritional benefits of strawberries for kids. For starters, we often think oranges are the MVPs of the vitamin C game, but we shouldn’t count out strawberries. Eight strawberries have the same amount of vitamin C as a single orange! In fact, 100 g of strawberries provides 98% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C for most adults–and kids need even less than that! Vitamin C is important for kids as it assists their immune system in protecting their bodies from disease.
Added bonus: If you have a child that doesn’t like to drink water, try serving strawberries. Strawberries are good for hydration because they are 91% water! Eating water, as opposed to drinking it, can be very helpful for picky eaters and children who struggle with water intake.
The next time you notice that first drop of a runny nose start to fall, try serving strawberries to hydrate and pump vitamin C into your child to help their body work through it!
How to Serve Strawberries to Picky Eaters
One of our special tips for serving new foods to picky eaters is to expand the number of ways the food is presented. You may find that one preparation works better for your particular child’s needs than another.
There are a few different ways to serve strawberries to kids and selective eaters. You can serve them raw with the stems cut off and cut into age-appropriate pieces. Dip them in chocolate and serve them as play food alongside your meal! Sliced, raw strawberries can be placed on a nut butter sandwich and they make a sweet addition to any salad. Strawberries also freeze well and can be used in smoothies.
If your child is unsure about the texture and feel of the berry, jam and jelly are a good way to get kids used to the strawberry flavor. You can spread jam on toast, mix it into yogurt and top ice cream with it.
When serving strawberries, or any food, to a fussy eater, you should try to make it as approachable as possible. We suggest doing this by serving a micro portion of the new food. Micro portions are very tiny, taste-sized amounts of a food, about the size of your pinky nail. This allows your child to get to know the food in a non-threatening way. As an added plus, this tactic reduces food waste.
Maybe if Ian’s grandfather had brought the strawberries separately and put just a small piece of one on his plate, Ian would have been more open to interacting with it.
Our best advice for serving new foods to picky kids: drop the pressure at mealtimes. Trust us on this one; here’s why. When picky eaters feel pressured, they are less likely to try a new food. Pressure can sound many different ways. Maybe you have heard or said any of the following phrases at mealtimes:
- “Strawberries are good for you. You will like them if you just give them a chance.”
- “You have to sit at the table until you finish all of your strawberries.”
- “If you want to have chips, first you have to try a strawberry.”
Ian definitely felt the pressure when he was told to “just pick around” the strawberries that were in the fruit salad. His grandfather meant well by offering what he thought was a reasonable solution. He didn’t realize that telling Ian, a selective eater, to pick around a new food was pressure that could deter him from ever trying it.
How to Talk About Strawberries to Help Your Child Try Them
When picky eaters are describing unfamiliar foods, they don’t use positive language. Instead, we hear a lot of negative things like: “This smells stinky,” and “Why is this food so globby?” These negative associations with the food only reinforce food selectiveness. One of our goals as caretakers is to replace those negative words with neutral terms.
Why neutral instead of positive words? When we are overly positive about a food, many of our little food skeptics think we are trying to fool them into trying something that is actually going to be yucky. This strategy doesn’t work. We already know that describing foods in a negative way will lead to negative associations. Neutral terms help us form objective opinions about new foods, which is the first step in learning to try them.
We have an opportunity to change the way our children talk about food, which will help them to think differently about it. We can model using neutral language around our children by using these words when we speak about food in front of them.
If you’re wondering how changing your language will magically help your picky eater to like strawberries, it won’t. It takes implementing our combined picky eating strategies over time to get the food wins you are searching for. Luckily we have resources to help you get your kid to eat strawberries and other new foods!
Here are some words you can use to describe strawberries to your selective eater:
- Red outside
- White inside
- Sweet taste
- Small, medium, large
- Sweet smell
- Fuzzy on top
- Wet on the inside
Maybe the next time Ian’s grandfather casually talks about strawberries, he could acknowledge that Ian is still learning about them and say, “Strawberries are red on the outside and white on the inside. They have a sweet taste.”
How to Help Your Child Understand What Strawberries Do in Their Body
How we speak about foods with fussy eaters is important. Our instincts are to convince our child the food is good so they will eat it! We want them to know why we’re determined to get them to eat. We want them to be healthy! The key here is reimagining how we speak about foods with our kids. Trying to talk them into eating something will rarely get them to try it. It could even cause a food battle.
To avoid picky-eating-related food battles, try to share age-appropriate facts about what a food does for us on the inside. We want kids to realize there is a real connection between food and the body! This is another step toward getting picky eaters to think about foods in a new way, and may lead them into trying new foods in the future.
Here are some age-appropriate strawberry facts for kids we put together:
Age 0-3: Strawberries help our boo-boos feel better.
Age 3-5: Strawberries help cuts heal and make you feel better when you’re sick.
Age 6-11: Strawberries have something called vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body fight sickness and heal cuts.
Age 12-18: Strawberries have vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body’s immune system work properly so it can protect you from getting sick.
If Ian’s grandfather had known that talking about what food does inside the body is helpful for picky eaters, he may have told Ian that strawberries have vitamin C, and that vitamin C helps heal cuts, like the one he had from doing that really cool trick on his bike last week!
Strawberry Food Play Activity
Food play can be essential for helping fussy eaters create open minds about the foods we want them to try.
How does food play actually help picky kids? We know that children learn so much through play. Incorporating food play activities helps to desensitize their bodies and brains to the new experiences that foods offer. Once they interact with a food through sight, smell, sound, or touch, they become more familiar with it, and it isn’t so foriegn to them anymore. Over time, they may decide to get closer to the food or smell it, and then possibly even taste it.
Food play activities can be as low-key as cutting food into fun shapes, or they can be more detailed and structured if you have the time for it. You can find ways to incorporate food play into your daily life, like having your child prep a food in the kitchen with you or scrape the plates after a meal.
It is not uncommon that picky eaters need a lot of exposure to a food before they are ready to try it. This requires patience, so don’t be discouraged! Anytime you serve a new food, that’s a win for you and you should celebrate yourself.
For over 101 food play ideas broken down by age group, check out: Food Play Every Day
- Straw (1 per person)
- 1 bowl or plate
- Put strawberries on a bowl or plate.
- Use the straw to poke a hole through the green stem and out the other side of the strawberry.
- Place two strawberries on the ends of your straw and hold them up to your eyes, like they are binoculars (or glasses for younger children). Tell stories about what you see through your strawberry “binoculars.”
- Older children may also enjoy stacking the strawberries onto the straws, and counting how many strawberries will fit onto different length straws. You can make guesses and see who was the closest or turn it into a math game by adding and subtracting strawberries from the straw.
For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!
Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!
About Kids Eat in Color
Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents.
Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed
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