The No Thank You Bite is a topic of controversy. By definition it is a parenting technique in which a child must try at least one bite of every food served. Only after trying the food, can s/he say, “No, thank you,” to eating another bite. Those opposed to the practice believe that it takes away a bit of a child’s control over his/her own body. Those who support the practice, believe that a child will not be willing to try new foods and therefore a taste is required. Both arguments make valid points, but each child is unique and it is a parent’s responsibility to determine what is needed in the home. That being said, we had to say no thank you to the No Thank You Bite for Little Bit. We do require a tasting bite. We do not let her say No Thank You to trying the food again, though. The same foods will continue to show up at our meals and she will be required to keep taking a bite.
The Required Bite
I have always said it can take up to 10 tries before an adult learns to like a new food. Kids may need up to 20 tries because they have more tastebuds. I now laugh at myself for ever making this statement. Here is just one example of why: I sent grapes everyday in Little Bit’s lunch for almost a year before she decided she liked grapes. I not only sent them in her lunch, I served them at home. At our home table I required that she take 1-3 bites each time it was served.
When I introduce a new food, I do not always require a tasting bite. I have often served a new food up to 5 times before I required Little Bit to take a bite. This is because learning to eat a new food involves more than just the sense of taste. It also involves sight, smell, and touch. By placing a new food on her plate, and not immediately requiring a taste, I am allowing her time to learn about the food through her other senses. She often will touch the food with her fingers. She always examines it closely with her eyes, and she does sometimes smell it. Only after I know she has had a chance to fully explore the new food will I require a tasting bite.
The Required 1-3 Bites
In our house, I needed to take the required bite one step further. After about 5 exposures to the food in which I require her to take 1 bite, I move to a required 2 bites, and finally to a required 3 bites. I began doing this for a couple of reasons. The first because I was becoming concerned about her nutritional status and felt she needed to get a few more foods in her body. The second because I realized that the more bite she took per meal, the faster we moved to acceptance of a food. It still may take weeks, months, or even years, but it does move faster.
Stop the Negative Talk
When raising a picky eater, I have found it is important to keep all talk around food positive. I have a found that Little Bit’s typical reaction to a new food is, “Yuck, I don’t like that!” I gently remind her that we don’t call food yucky. She may not like it yet because she is still learning. I also encourage talk about food with neutral words and tone. Neutral words would be asking a child if the food is crunchy or soft. Discussing if the food is hot or cold. Keeping a neutral tone to the conversation can the hardest for me as the parent. But I try to keep my frustration with her picky eating under control and use a gentle voice when we talk about food.
If Little Bit tries to say she doesn’t like a certain food after many exposures, I also redirect that comment. I remind her again that she may not like it yet, but she is learning. By making this statement, I am letting her know that the food will show up again on her plate and she will be required to take 1-3 bites.
The Place for No Thank You
I do believe that the No Thank You Bite has a place with extended family and during meals away from home. It can avoid meltdowns and power struggles. It is the role of parents to guide the child’s eating. When others try to insert themselves into the situation it can dissolve into chaos quickly. Encourage children taste one bite of the food, and then politely refuse more by saying, “No thank you.” It saves everyone involved lots of stress and tears.
Best Decision Yet
Ending the No Thank You Bite has been the best decision I have made with my picky eater. I have a child that will happily eat the same foods for the rest of her life. She has very little, if any, desire to try new foods. Requiring repeated small bites has been the key to expanding her food preferences. I know that it does not work for all families. I’m here to tell you though, it has worked in mine. Some foods have literally taken years for her to accept, but without those required bites it would not have happened.