Teaching Your Child to Be an Adventurous Eater

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Many people think that children have limited tastes and don’t care to have exotic foods or even regular adult food. But as children across the globe show, taste buds need to be stretched and then they can like many things.

Most American parents, it seems, feed their kids things like: crackers, cookies, pretzles, cheese, fruit snacks, mac n cheese, and other “junk”-esque food. They do it partially because they know their kids will like it and partially because it’s easy. Simple to buy, store, prepare, etc, but it doesn’t provide much “broadening of the horizons” that children need in order to try and like a wide variety of foods.

Did you know that it can take up to 14 times of trying a food before a child can like it? Maybe even more. So just because Freddie tried peas one time and made a face doesn’t mean that he won’t ever like them, just that he didn’t like them today. And we all have “food moods”, even as adults. Some days I don’t feel like having potatoes but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Just means that my tastes and cravings change from day to day.

Stretching food boundaries is very important. The best way to go about it is to provide 1 new ingredient or element each meal or snack to introduce it gradually. You can add a bit of prepared mustard to a sauce, add some capers in with a lemon white wine sauce, mix in some quinoa with a casserole lunch, or have a painter’s palette of colorful food purées for children to try and play with.

Tactile experiences (playing with food) are just as important as trying new foods. Children learn through play and through “doing” so they learn about textures, food, and science through playing with their food, mouthing it, squishing it, and tasting it.

If your child is displeased with the taste of a food and spits it out, show them where to put it (napkin, back on the plate, etc) and then say, “Thank you for trying the __peas__. Remember that you don’t have to like it, just to try it.” Or a simpler version if you’d like.

My son (who is turning 2) likes: eggs, salmon, brie, feta, beets, yogurt, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, and green veggie juice! Just remember that you’ll need to be persistent with trying new foods, and don’t give up! The best way to let children try new foods is to give them some food off your plate- either while out to eat or at your own dinner table. Make sure that you’re setting a good example, too. If a child sees their parent with no veggies on their plate, better figure they’re not enticed to eat them either!

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