How To Raise A Foodie? 6 Tips for Encouraging an Adventurous Little Eater

If you want to raise a foodie -- a little one who tries and loves a wide variety of healthy foods -- starting early is key.

Learn steps to take to encourage a diverse palate during your little one's first 1,000 days.

As the Scientific Report of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee states, feeding decisions during a child's first 1,000 days of life are vital because they "not only contribute to long-term health but also help shape taste preferences and food choices."

This may seem daunting, especially if your little one is a picky eater. But it's certainly possible to raise a little one who's enthusiastic about trying different foods, as long as you don't delay.

Here are 6 important steps you can take in those first 1,000 days to raise a foodie.

1) Introduce baby to different flavors early

One New York Times article shares about babies and toddlers who are eagerly eating sophisticated flavors like whitefish, cumin, chia seeds, kale, squash, turmeric, and quinoa. They've been introduced to many of these diverse flavors and textures through a baby food company.

But you don't need to buy gourmet baby food to foster diverse eating habits.

The little one who was eating smoked whitefish ate it right when they started eating solids, even before they started with the baby food brand. This foodie baby was simply introduced to the whitefish flavor and texture, and other diverse foods, early and often. And that was key.

The number one way to raise a foodie is to feed them healthy foods with many different flavors, early and often.

Feeding baby diverse, healthy foods will encourage them to enjoy these foods---and make adventurous, nutritious eating choices later in life.

And you can certainly prepare a variety of foods for your baby on your own, especially if they mirror diverse foods your family already enjoys.

As long as the foods are prepared in ways that are safe for the baby to eat, and as long as the foods meet the baby's nutritional needs, the possibilities are nearly endless.

You can even expand baby's palate by adding spices, like turmeric and cumin, for their meals (taking inspiration from the foods mentioned in the New York Times article).

2) Introduce different baby-safe textures early

Flavor's just one piece of the baby foodie puzzle.

To give your little one a head start on their food exploration journey, and encourage future adventures in eating, introduce them to a variety of food textures. Think beyond the puree!

Feeding your baby smooth, mashed, thick and lumpy textures (especially as baby becomes more confident in eating solids) encourages your baby to develop their munching and chewing skills, and become a more confident eater.

Baby needs to learn chewing and munching to confidently explore different foods--- they aren't born knowing how to do this. Giving them that head start will get them ready to explore more and more foods as they get older.

Baby-led weaning is one great way to encourage baby to explore different food textures, as well as colors and tastes. It also empowers baby to take the lead on when to start and stop a mealtime--- and it tends to be less expensive than buying jars of baby food. Learn more about baby-led weaning here.

You'll need to make sure the textures you choose are safe for baby, though, to reduce their risk of choking. Stick to softer foods, and cook hard vegetables like carrots before you feed them to baby.

Avoid feeding your baby hard foods, whole rounded foods (like grapes and cherry tomatoes), food pieces larger than ½ inch in size, whole nuts, and chunky nut butters.

3) Follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines for babies and toddlers

Need inspiration on how to craft a diverse, healthy diet for baby? Start with the USDA's Dietary Guidelines (DGA) for children 2 years of age and under.

For babies 6-12 months of age and ready for solids:

  • Draw a variety of foods from all healthy food groups.
  • Prioritize fruits and vegetables.
  • Introduce protein-rich foods like meat, fish, seafood, eggs, soy products, nut products, and seed products.
  • Pick foods high in iron and zinc.
  • Introduce age-appropriate forms of common allergy-causing foods, like "peanut, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, and soy."
  • Introduce yogurt and cheese.
  • Introduce different grains, mainly whole grains.
  • Avoid foods with added sugar.
  • Limit higher-sodium foods.

For toddlers 12 months to 2 years of age:

  • Draw a variety of foods from all healthy food groups.
  • Prioritize fruits and vegetables.
  • Feed many colors and varieties of vegetables daily:
    • Dark green vegetables,
    • Red and orange vegetables
    • Beans, peas, and lentils
    • Starch vegetables (e.g. potatoes)
    • Other vegetables
  • Feed protein-rich foods like meat, fish, seafood, eggs, soy products, nut products, and seed products.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains.
  • Include dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Avoid foods with added sugar.
  • Limit higher-sodium foods.

Registered Dietitian Jill Castle offers more information on the USDA guidelines:

4) Be persistent in offering diverse foods

Your baby may only accept a new type of food after you feed it to them 8-10 (or more) times. So, don't give up if your baby appears not to like a certain food. Continuing to offer a variety of foods on multiple occasions will help encourage healthy eating and “a nutrient-dense, diverse diet from age 6 through 23 months of life [with] a variety of foods from each food group," as the USDA DGA advises. Persistence is key in encouraging baby to enjoy different tastes (and make more adventurous eating choices later on).

5) Let your little one watch you make their food, and eventually help prepare it.

When your child's involved in the food prep process, they'll be more invested in trying many new foods.

Start at the grocery store---when you take your little one with you, point out and name the foods you select for their meals.

Let your little one watch you prepare different foods, especially their own meals. You could also let them touch the foods as you work.

Then, as your little one gets a bit older, involve them in simple parts of making their meals. Have them help you wash fruits and vegetables, pour measured ingredients into a bowl, or mix up ingredients.

6) Model diverse eating

Impressionable little ones want to be like their parents and other older family members. So, model "being a foodie" yourself, by eating a variety of nutritious foods in front of them. And be sure to say how much you enjoy the foods!

Telling your child what you like about your food, and talking to them about the flavor and the texture, is always a good idea.

This exposes them to many different foods and makes them eager to try, since you've already shared your love for the foods.

Best wishes on encouraging your little one's journey of adventurous eating!

Introduce Allergens Safely and Easily with Ready. Set. Food!

All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.