By Cathy Monaghan MSc, H.Dip, RD.

Food Chaining.

Food chaining is a tool to help increase the number of foods that your child eats. It was originally developed by paediatric feeding specialist, Cheri Fraker, in 2007.

It is a way of taking a food which is accepted by your child and very gradually adding subtle changes to allow your child to bridge to new foods. It is often used with picky eaters that have a limited number of foods in their diet.


The changes need to be small and the pace of change is child dependent. Your child maybe be open to chains on somedays more than others. It is best not to set any goals or expectations before you begin as this may contribute to frustration or a sense of failure. Move at your child’s pace. Chains are usually done with your child’s knowledge, there is no sneaking foods in.

Foods in a chain are similar to each other in colour, shape, flavour or texture. Changes are like stepping stones to a new food.


Foods Chains are not linear and you can branch off at any point starting a new chain to a new food. It is not force feeding and it is important that your child feels supported throughout the process.


Getting Started:

Start small and try to limit your expectations. Consider preferred foods as your ally and always offer these with the need food in the chain.

Limiting your expectations limits the chances of your child feeling like they have failed. This alone can contribute to success!


Small Chains to start with:

  1. Cut accepted sandwiches into different shapes, square, soldiers – or supervise your child cutting their own sandwich if they are old enough to do so.

  2. Offer foods on different plates, ask them if they would like to sit on a different seat at the table, place a coloured napkin on their plate or use different utensils – pick one change to work on at a time.

  3. Change up the beakers they are drinking from.

  4. Offer accepted foods at different temperatures – frozen yoghurt, toast instead of bread, cold or room temperature milk rather than heated.


Top tips to remember:

  • Keep steps small.

  • Offer the new food along with an accepted food.

  • Eating is a sensory experience and mess helps with this.

  • When a new food is accepted it must become a regular part of the child’s diet.

  • Have visual reminders of your child enjoying new foods. It can help them to look back and remember previously enjoying the food.

  • When or if your child refuses a food – try your very best not to comment. Simply return to the chain another day.

  • It can take numerous exposures 10-20 for a child to accept the food into their diet. Keep going but do keep mealtimes relaxed and stress free. It is your job to provide the opportunity to try new foods and it is up to your child to decide to try it.

  • Food chaining works, but it does take time and lots of patience. You and your child will be better able for it on some days than others.

  • If you are worried about your child’s health or that they deficient in any nutrients please consider a Telenutrition Consultation. Our Toddler Masterclass is developed for children from 1-5 years and this may help also.

To learn more you may enjoy Cheri Frakers book, Food Chaining.


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