Little ones can have picky palates. Maybe they don't like the color, the shape, the taste (kids prefer sweet over bitter), the texture, or the smell. Perhaps they don't want to try something new because the familiar is just that, and tasty. So, what can you do to encourage your child to expand into new foods?

Keep only the food you want eaten in your home.

It is easier to say "no" to snacks and prepackaged food when they are not in the house. There is a big difference in, "You can't have (fill in blank) now." versus "We don't have (fill in blank), honey."

Take stock of what's on your plate.

Make sure you have the same food on your plate that you are offering your child. It may be challenging to get your child to eat the food if you do not eat it.

Encourage healthy grazing.

Give your child a variety of healthy foods to choose from. Introduce vegetables as soon as your kids could begin eating solids. Ground and mash organic vegetables for them. Then upgrade to small "nibble plates" for the kids when they move into toddlerhood — veggies and fruits cut into small pieces that the kids could manipulate, but not choke on, on miniature plastic plates.

Dip it or pair it.

Just about every vegetable in our home was initially dipped into ranch dressing, low sodium soy, ketchup, or peanut butter. The kids ventured into hummus and salsas when they felt braver. The kids also paired apples with cheese and bananas with yogurt or peanut butter.

Play with it.

I learned a lot when I encouraged playing with food. Broccoli became "bushes" and asparagus was "trees." Mini carrots were "missiles" and celery was "slides." The kids enjoyed eating these imaginary items.

Feed when hungry.

Your child will be more likely to try food if they are hungry. Limit snacking and provide only vegetables and fruit if your child cannot wait to eat.

Use the food as an ingredient.

Consider adding the unpopular, like zucchini, to muffins or pesto. I introduced tomatoes and cauliflower in soups.

Ask for help.

Kids love to help their parents. Your child can help with food preparation and serving, in safe age-appropriate ways. My kids measured out vegetable servings in plastic and metal cups and put them onto plastic plates. They were also able to put the dipping sauces in small plastic bowls and then place them on the table.

Respect your child's wishes.

Realize your child's palate may not expand at the rate you desire, even though you may have tried every idea known to you. Accept your child's "no" if you have tried to get your child to eat a certain food and they have refused. They may come back to it later, or never. Everyone has foods and textures they love as well as those they strongly dislike.