"Buy it and Try it Night": Try taking your child to the grocery to pick out some new (appropriate) food items. Then try them out that evening. There's always something new and fun lurking in the produce section like ugli fruit or star fruit!
Whenever our son asks "Can I eat this?" we always respond "Let's look it up!" This way he has gotten used to the idea that certain foods are not OK and "the book" (Low Protein Food List for PKU) tells us the answer. This helps take the heat off of mom and dad too!
When I try a new recipe, I also serve "standards" along with the new recipe so that everything is not new. Try new recipes in small amounts when possible.
If you have more than one child on the diet, a good way to introduce new foods, or previously refused food, is to offer it to the other child. Children are influenced by what siblings like.
If you make something and your child won't eat it, don't assume that he or she will never eat it again! Offer foods over and over. This early exposure is a learning process and your child is experiencing more than you think. Remember that repetition promotes familiarity and familiarity promotes acceptance.
Here are two suggestions to get your child to eat more vegetables.
This summer, let your child grow a few of his or her favorite vegetables in a flower bed or small garden. Try a new vegetable and let them have the fun of growing and eating it fresh from the garden. My son's new favorites this year are Brussels sprouts and blue potatoes!
If your grocery store has a fresh salad bar, when shopping allow your child to make his own salad with your help. Take this home for lunch instead of getting soda pop and candy!
Fresh, bright yellow squash is a nice soft "first food." I slice it in rings, microwave it with a little margarine, salt and water, then put it in a Mickey Mouse bowl and let me son "experience" it. At first, he would pick it up with his fingers and mostly make a mess. Now, he uses a fork or spoon and really likes it. Expose your child to new foods early by letting him or her handle as well as taste the food.
Other "tricks" to interest and attract young children:
Use Flintstone dixie cups for serving strawberries, grapes, cherry tomatoes.
Slice cucumbers on an animal plate and add a tiny bit of salt.
Let your child eat raisins right out of the little red snack boxes.
Cut plums and cantaloupe into little, easy-to-eat pieces.
Let your child use toothpicks for eating pineapple chunks, etc. (Using toothpicks for stabbing foods was a big thing for my three year-old. But be very cautious with this. It is not recommended for very young children.)
Offer new foods to a young child in a friendly setting. Or let a grandparent or other family member try it. At Thanksgiving, my mother, with her natural charm, influenced my son to eat freshly cooked turnips (a tiny bit of sugar added) and collard greens (we are southern) along with his favorite mashed sweet potatoes topped with mini-marshmallows for dessert. Another trick is to offer just a little at a time. Let them sample it and often they will eat more. With each new food, you are breaking new ground and your child is learning.
Be a good role model. When I eat a plum, my son wants a plum. When I eat a banana, he wants a banana. We ourselves are eating some foods we didn't eat before PKU, because it has helped familiarize him with the fruits and vegetables that are the "core" of the diet. You'll be surprised what your young child will eat.
At times I encourage my two year-old son to share his low protein snacks (such as Cinnamon Graham Crackers, from Low Protein Cookery for PKU) with his siblings and friends. When the others approve of the taste, it makes him feel good about having to eat something different.
Consistency is important in our household. The rule in our house has always been "Do not help yourself to food. If you are hungry, come and ask and we will fix you something to eat." After all, non-PKU siblings often forget to be sensitive to the fact that not everybody can help themselves whenever they want. More importantly, asking before eating develops good (more controlled) eating habits.
As someone with PKU, I know it can get depressing eating what looks like the same foods all the time. The best way to resolve this is to try different recipes and include the whole family. Experimenting can be fun and exciting for everyone!
Try to have similar foods for your child with PKU as the rest of the family is eating at supper. For example, imitation rice and veggies when we have stir fry, baked potato night when we all have a stuffed baked potato (using veggies for our daughter), low protein spaghetti when the family has spaghetti. This is a very basic concept, but very important!
Always save some of the child's meal for a second helping. It's just something about a child that always wants seconds. Make the initial serving smaller, so when they ask, they can have more (it beats saying no again.)
Involve your young child in food choices by talking about them. In the freezer, I always have frozen low protein bread and pancakes in Ziploc bags on a low shelf at my three year-old son's eye level. I will open the door and ask him if he wants bread or a pancake and let him choose by verbally responding, pointing, or actually getting it out himself. This makes him feel "in charge" and is a very small step towards self-management when he grows up. We then microwave his choice and let him "eat and run." I have found that he will naturally rotate his food choices. The same goes with stocking a variety of fresh fruit on the lower shelf in the refrigerator and letting him see the choices between tangerines, plums, grapes, etc. Or between lettuce, carrots, celery, tomatoes or cucumbers in the vegetable crisper. The pantry is set up in the same way. Small canned fruits and vegetables are on the lower shelf so I can ask him, "Do you want carrots or green beans?" or "Do you want a Mott's peaches or strawberry Fruit Pak?" At the age of three, he will now go to the drawer where the measuring cups are and hold one up to the item that he wants.
When our son was very small, he was interested in food he was not allowed to have. We found that if we let him pick up the food and feed it to our dog he was perfectly satisfied with not being able to eat that food. We also had a very happy, well-fed dog!
I give my two year-old daughter choices, within limits, about what she eats. She loves her low pro pasta. We go to the pantry daily and she chooses which pasta she will eat each day. She can also choose if she would like her pasta with sauce (usually she chooses tomato) or butter (Parkay Spread). I think that having choices is important for children to feel a sense of control, even when there are limits that confine the choices.
We keep a New Food Notebook. My four year old son used letter stickers to put his name on the cover and inside, each new food he tries gets a page to itself! We started this when he turned three, as he is a pretty picky eater. We try to cut out labels or pictures of the new food and we put the date and his reaction to it. He decorates the page any way he wants. For instance, when he tried grape Kool-Aid, we pasted a picture of the Kool-Aid guy to the page. I think this book has really helped him to at least try foods he wouldn't before. And we found he likes eggplant this way!