Does the 1-Bite Rule Work?

does the 1 bite rule work picky eater

Many families use the 1-bite rule at mealtimes. What’s the 1-bite rule? It’s when there is a family rule that kids need to try 1 bite of every food on their plate. Other names for this rule include the “no thank you bite” and the “polite bite”.

I get a lot of people asking me whether or not it’s a good strategy. The answer is: it depends.

What does it depend on? Two things:

  1. Your child’s temperament
  2. That it’s okay to not like a food

Your Child’s Temperament

Temperament is the term used to describe the inherent way that a child responds emotionally and behaviourally to challenges or new situations. We usually use the term “personality”. Some children are more outgoing, some more reserved. Some are more adventurous, while some like to sit back and observe before taking action. All of these temperaments are normal—but they do influence how your child approaches eating.

The 1-bite rule works well for kids who are more adventurous because they are more comfortable jumping into new situations. For reserved kids, forcing them to take action before they’re ready just causes them to dig their heels in further and become more resistant to trying new foods. Most of the time when parents hire me to work with their family, their kids have a more reserved temperament. We remove the 1-bite rule and the child is allowed to proceed at his own pace. Once he trusts that he truly is in control, he’ll try new foods on his own.

That it’s Okay to Not Like a Food

It’s so easy to do. You’ve racked your brain to figure out what new recipe your family will enjoy, grocery shopped, and prepared the dish. So, when she tries her 1 bite, out you blurt “It’s good right?” or perhaps you say “See, it’s not so bad. Try another bite”. I’ve also heard well-meaning Dads say “See, your Mom is a good cook.” Because you’ve put so much effort and love into the dish, you want your family to enjoy it. The unfortunate side effect is that this pressure will make your little one less likely to try something. Because now she not only has to try it –she has to like it too.

In general I don’t recommend the 1-bite rule. Kids are smart. They understand that when you serve food, you want them to eat it. If you do choose to have the 1-bite rule in your family, make sure that your child is the adventurous type and it truly needs to be okay for your child to try a food and not like it.

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