My son is about the age of your son. How do you get him to try new foods? I wish my child ate as well as yours. Love the site!
What a GREAT question! This topic is near and dear to my heart as I set a goal to NOT have a picky child and I've been blessed with just that. I don't know if I have all the answers as not all kids are the same. All I can do is share with you what strategies I used and how I introduced new foods to my little guy.
First, I breast fed. I'm not sure if it had a bearing on his eating habits but it was very important for me to do so. I set a goal of 6 months and the toddler, well, the "baby's", main source of nutrition was breast milk until 8 months. At around 6 months I mixed whole grain infant cereal made with breast milk and offered him a little at meal times. Most of it didn't actually go down but I thought it would be a good way to introduce new textures. Not long after, I started on pureed vegetables while still nursing a bit and offering the cereal.
I believed in not only introducing new foods and textures at that young age but I'm a firm believer in allowing the little ones to play with their food. I dug this video out of our home movie collection. This is the toddler at about 6 and ½ months cute and messy, just the way he should be. :~)
As you can see, nothing made it into his mouth, but I think it was a good way to lay the foundation of an experimental eater.
As the baby grew into the toddler, I focused on offering him the same foods that I was eating. In the beginning he ate a lot of pureed vegetable and fruits but very early I started offering cut up banana, canned carrots, peas and green beans. These were all soft enough I didn't have to worry about chocking yet they gave him a chance to feel independent and try new textures.
Soft fruits and veggies soon turned into beans, halved grapes, cubed cheese omelets, cut up grilled cheese on whole grain and, if you believe it, corn on the cob. I stood firm on the "he eats what we eat" rule and when he was too young for the solids I'd puree our meals in the blender.
He didn't always like what he was given but when he was young enough I didn't care (actually, I still don't). I remember one meal (he was about 7-8 months) he was eating jarred peas and jarred peaches. Every time we gave him the peas he make a face and vocally show his displeasure. I knew if that was all he was given he'd start spitting it out, so I started to alternate the peaches in so he didn't know what to expect. Two scoops of peaches, 1 of peas, then 1 peach, 2 peas, 1 peach, 1 pea and so on. He never knew what to expect and every time he got the peas he'd yell, it was hysterical! I turned it into a game, and he ended up eating the whole jar of peas! (I swear I have this on video but I can't find it!)
All in all, I wasn't afraid to let him try things at a young age. I really think that is the key along with involving him in the food process, of course! I remember putting on a cooking show for him sitting in the bouncer on the island while I made my homemade sauce one Sunday morning. He has always been in the kitchen with me, involved in the meal preparation not just a recipient of the meal. I think that has made a HUGE difference in his willingness to try new foods.
Now that he is older and much more independent, I try to keep healthy snacks available and he (most of the time) asks and wants the good stuff for snacks. There are times (like tonight) were we have a handful of Swedish fish or a candy necklace, but I'm confident, at this point, that the occasional sugary snack is not going to kill him especially considering his overall diet is probably better then most adults! Overall my philosophy is everything in moderation except fruits in veggies, they should be in excess!
If you're curious, at meal times he gets a mini plate of what we are eating. Does he eat it all and like everything? No, of course not, but (again, most of the time) he tries it. He'll now tell me when he doesn't like something and I respect it, just asking him to take one more bite before he leaves the dinner table. It NORMALLY works.
I hope that helps, as I said, this is just my experiences as a mom trying her best. It wasn't always easy, but having a plan and sticking to it helps a bunch. Good luck and don't get too frustrated!