Is the “One Bite Rule” a good idea for kids? Here’s some advice–and some alternatives.
My husband has a story from his childhood about eating a bite of lima beans. Or rather, not being allowed to leave the table until he had taken a bite of lima beans, and stubbornly sitting there long after dinner was over. When his mom left the table to clean up and he tried to sneak that dreaded spoonful of lima beans back into the serving dish, his older brother ratted him out.
I hear from a lot of different parents with a lot of different feeding styles, but many of them have one thing in common: The One Bite Rule.
On paper, it seems like a reasonable compromise: Kids are asked to try only one bite of a new food. They have to actually taste the food instead of rejecting it outright–but if they don’t like it, there’s no pressure to eat a whole portion of it. Some parents say it works brilliantly with their kids, who have discovered new favorite foods this way. But it’s not always successful. (After all, my husband never did learn to like lima beans!)
We used to do the One Bite Rule in our house too. My older child happily took nibbles of unfamiliar food when asked to—sometimes even two or three bites before he rendered his verdict.
Then along came my second child to prove that I know nothing about parenting! As a toddler, he boycotted dinner for days on end and refused foods we all knew he loved (read Dinner Drama). Asking for “just one bite” challenged his independence and immediately put him on the defensive. It also wrecked the mood at the table, made him dig in his heels even more, and put us all on edge.
So I dropped the One Bite Rule from our dinner routine. I still encourage both kids to try new foods–or foods they don’t think they like. But instead of “You have to take a bite”, I say “Why don’t you try a bite?” and it’s made all the difference in the world. Both kids will usually take a bite, though it might be very tiny. If they don’t want to take a bite, they don’t have to. But it never, ever escalates into a battle–which to me, is the most important part.
If the One Bite Rule works well in your house, by all means keep it. For some children, it encourages them to branch out, discover new flavors and new favorites, and keep their minds open.
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. So if it doesn’t work with your kids, I encourage you to back off and try a different tack. Some ideas:
- Use my free Try New Foods Chart
- Instead of focusing on tasting new foods, help your kids be food “explorers”
Here’s one rule that DOES work for us: The Dinnertime Rule That Will Change Your Life.