#57 - The Power of Saying Nothing When Your Child Tries a New Food

Jan 28, 2024
#57 - The Power of Saying Nothing When Your Child Tries a New Food

Picture this: You’ve been introducing a new food for months. And despite your best efforts, your child hasn’t taken a bite yet. You’ve done everything you can think and are starting to feel defeated. AND THEN…it finally happens.


As you watch them take a bite you can hardly contain your excitement – you’ve been waiting and waiting for this moment!

You’re jumping with anticipation as they chew and swallow it, and those 4 little words fly out of your mouth at warp speed – “DO YOU LIKE IT?”


Whelp…what if I told you that was actually one of the least helpful things we could say in that moment?

Before we get to why…let’s unpack this a bit.

There is so much emotion surrounding eating, especially when your child is struggling with feeding challenges.


Eating progress is often frustratingly slow, and wins can feel so far and few between. So when the moment finally happens, you are just bursting with joy and excitement. But in that moment, you’re also filled with so much hope that they will actually like and enjoy that food. Because you are desperate to add variety and nutrition to their diet.

Other times, you may not even think about it when you ask – it’s just second nature to ask someone if they’re enjoying the food they’re eating. Honestly, I’ve even found myself falling into this trap when I’m not in a therapeutic mode. I definitely have asked children in our family if they enjoyed a food after trying it, and then immediately cringed realizing my mistake when they answered “no!”


So if you’re listening and realizing you say this all the time, don’t you worry, I’ve been there too. It takes time to retrain your brain with new, intentional responses.


But you may be wondering…is “do you like it” really that bad? Here’s the thing – if you’ve been in my community for a while, you know that I will tell you if that really works for your family, then you do you.


But here’s why I personally prefer to not to use “do you like it:”


  1. The first time we try a food – our brain really isn’t sure what to expect. In that first bite, our brain is evaluating whether the food tasted or felt like we anticipated. Maybe we expected it to be more sweet, or sour, crunchy, or soft. In that first bite our brain is learning the characteristics of the food. When you ask a child immediately if they “liked” it…the truth is, they often don’t know yet. Their brain is still forming an opinion. But because they often don’t know, or aren’t sure yet, that answer is likely going to be NO.
  2. It can take more than one-bite to learn to like a food. Did you immediately LOVE sushi the first time you tried it? If you’re anything like me, no. To be totally transparent, my first bite of sushi made me feel like I wanted to throw up. But then I continued to try it in different ways, at different opportunities, with different people, and now sushi is literally my favorite food in the world. That’s because it took time for my brain to learn to like it. Again, that first taste – I had no idea what to expect. But every time I took another bite or tried it again, I got more used to it – a process called habituation. And I figure out exactly how I liked it served, and how I liked to eat it. When we ask kids immediately after one time if they “liked it,” this teaches them that they will know after one-bite. But this simply isn’t the case. Sure, sometimes they may enjoy a food on the first bite, but many foods can be acquired tastes, taking time to learn. In fact, research has determined that it can take up to 20 times tasting a food to determine if we truly like it or not.
  3. We don’t absolutely LOVE all foods that we eat. In fact, many foods fall in a gray area. We tolerate it, or it’s ok, we don’t hate it, but we don’t love it. But we do eat it because we know that our body needs a balance of foods and nutrients. The best example of this is vegetables. Many adults still don’t love vegetables to this day, but we know how important they can be in a healthy and balanced diet, so we eat them. I like to teach kids this too. That not all food is a 100% win. It’s ok to be in the gray area. But when we only give them the two choices – like or dislike, we shut this down.

  4. It’s a lot of pressure. Can you imagine if every time you tried a new food you had an audience? And that you needed to give an answer to that audience immediately? And that if you say yes, you liked that food, they would literally RUN to Costco and buy it in bulk size to serve to you as much as possible? That’s what our kids are experiencing. When a child struggles with feeding challenges we are so desperate for them to eat new foods that we sometimes overdo it when they do like one. And this is a lot of pressure for them. It’s not uncommon that I see a kid say NO when asked, because they don’t want to be expected to eat it everyday. How do I know? Older kids have literally verbalized this to me in sessions! That they’re worried if they say yes, their parents are going to try and make them eat it at home.


So what can you say instead?


Sometimes the most powerful response is saying nothing at all. I know, this seems drastic. But in those moments after your child takes a bite of food, absence of words can speak volumes.

Silence creates a safe space for your child to explore unfamiliar tastes and textures, without the weight to please us and tell us they like it. It also gives them the opportunity to continue to explore that food and learn about it.


Often, when you give kids a chance, they’ll go back and try another taste, another bite, poke it with their fork, tear it into two. Essentially, they’ll go back and learn about that food some more. But when we interrupt with our questions, it takes away that opportunity.

Furthermore, the absence of pressure to “like” that food encourages more openness to exploration. If kids don’t feel like they immediately need to “like” a food or to eat a certain amount of it, they’re usually more likely to explore and try it.


Let me tell you a quick story. I was recently working with a family, and when the child would try a new food, the mom would get SO excited and have a total celebration. While super sweet and cute, the son clearly would get overwhelmed by this celebration. These celebrations were meant to help him feel excited and empowered, but instead, it made him withdraw and not want to try new foods because he would immediately be asked if he liked it and then a huge celebration would ensue. The mom started to notice that he would actually begin to go to the pantry and try foods when no one was watching, because he felt more comfortable and safe at those moments. And when she shifted to silence instead of celebrations and questions, he felt safer at the table too.

Of course, silence might not be the only answer. Every child is unique, and there are various ways to respond after your child tries a new food. In fact, I've prepared a free handout for you with 5 responses other than "Do you like it" that you can try with your child. 

Remember, introducing new foods to a child who struggles can be a challenging process for many parents. There’s so many questions, and how to you respond to this, what happens when this happens. That’s why in The Sensory Toolbox membership, you’ll find a comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide to Introducing New Foods to your child, that walks you through different situations and gives you simple but actionable steps. If you’re in the membership go check it out, if not what are you waiting for?! The Sensory Toolbox is only $19.99 a month, but you get access to our entire resource and training library. So instead of wondering “what do I do when my child does this….” or “but what if they don’t respond like I expected?” you’ll now be able to find answers right at your fingertips.


Again, don’t forget to download this week’s free handout – 5 Things to Say When Your Child Tries a New Food That Isn’t “Do You Like It” and I’ll see you back here on the podcast next week!



  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK582166/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331538/#:~:text=Children%20need%20to%20be%20exposed,children's%20willingness%20to%20try%20it.
  • https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2000.10718077


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