The Try-It-Bite Rule is a popular picky eating tip, but does it really work? This feeding therapist is weighing in and letting you know why it may do more harm than good.
I love Pinterest and use it all the time for recipes, decorating, and travel tips. I’m also inspired by other bloggers sharing parenting tips and strategies. But, as I scroll through, I’m always nervous that I’m going to run across a pin that promises “how to get picky eaters to eat veggies”. As a feeding therapist, I feel a professional obligation to click through and read if it’s advice I’d share.
Most of the time, it’s not.
At the top of the list of picky eating tips that make me cringe is “the try-it-bite rule”.
I know the author, often a mom, means well. I know she’s sharing what worked for her child, and there’s value in that. But, it’s not the whole picture, and the truth is that enforcing a “try-it bite rule” with a picky eater can be dangerous and only make them more selective.
What is the Try It Bite Rule?
Have you heard of this popular rule that many parents use at mealtimes to get their children to eat new or different foods than they usually eat? Sometimes referred to as the magic bite, parents state that their kids don’t have to eat everything on their plate, but they must at least try a bite of everything.
There are variations of course. Some parents allow the bite to be spit out if they don’t like it, others don’t.
Other times, it’s a minimum of 2-3 bites before they get more of the food they really want. Meaning, they have to try 2 bites of broccoli before they can get another serving of mac and cheese.
Does it Work?
Well, it depends on how you define “work”. For children that eat a variety of food and aren’t really much of a picky eater, it can be effective in getting your child to try foods that don’t appeal to them. Kids tend to just gulp these bites down, but it’s possible they could learn to enjoy a new food.
For more extreme picky eaters, this try it bite almost never works. It creates tension and a power struggle because even if an extreme picky eater wants to try a new food, they can’t bring themselves to.
In either situation, we know from Ellen Satter’s research that this pressure technique can not only make kids more defensive and fearful of food now, in the long run, it teaches our kids to subconsciously think some foods are better than others. And, I don’t mean that they think vegetables and lean meats are more desirable.
No, the result is often training them to desire the sweets, desserts, carbs, or whatever other foods they tend to want the most.
Watch more in this facebook live recording:
Why Not Extreme Picky Eaters?
There’s a distinction between extreme picky eaters and the average picky eater. If you aren’t sure what category your child falls into, head over the Picky Eating Test and get your results (look for the free printable while you’re there).
I think the well meaning advice of the “try-it bite rule” that pops up on Pinterest and in conversations with friends and family is particularly difficult for parents that have extreme picky eaters to hear because they know it isn’t going to work for their child. They know their child gags, throws food, or runs from the table when they have something new on their plate, let alone ask them to eat it.
Or, out of desperation, they give this rule a try and then it doesn’t work.
Either way, this only intensifies the “nothing works for my picky eater” thoughts and feelings that most parents of extreme picky eaters struggle with on a daily basis.
Another Consequence of the Try-It-Bite Rule for Picky Eaters
And, that’s the rub for me when I see another post on Pinterest that shares this seemingly innocent advice, because I’ve never seen a disclaimer that says “This doesn’t work for every child.” When I see posts and articles that promote this “tip”, I cringe because I know that for some picky eaters, it’s only going to make things worse and that for parents, it’s only going to make them feel more hopeless.
Neither has to be the case!
A Better Way to Help Picky Eaters…
My hope as a feeding therapist, and why I devote so much time to educating about picky eating here at Your Kid’s Table, is so that parents know it’s possible for even the most picky eaters to learn to eat new foods. And, that real long lasting changes don’t happen with a quick tip or trick like the “try-it bite rule”.
It happens with a do-able plan that addresses all the layers of picky eating!
All of that starts with a positive eating environment and the try it bite rule doesn’t create that. To build on that positive environment, you can join me in our free workshop for some first steps!
The 2019 Mealtime Works Scholarship Winners
Mealtime Works is my complete online picky eating program. It’s incredibly important to me that anyone who needs the advanced help to overcome their child’s picky eating has access to this class. Once a year, I offer several full scholarships to parents that wouldn’t be able to join otherwise because of their circumstances.
It’s my privilege to announce this years winners:
If your name is on this list, we’ll be reaching out to you via email soon. If you applied and don’t see your name, know that I’m still here for you! We have a free workshop. Get a spot here to get free help that can give you a great start!
More for Picky Eaters
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.