Rosie to the Rescue!: Food Tasting Challenge
In case you missed it, here is a recent post from “Rosie to the Rescue”, my blog for Parents Magazine, where I give you my favorite trick for dealing with picky eaters. Don’t miss the rest of the “Rosie to the Rescue” posts, available here.
Confession: I often struggle with getting my kids to try new foods. (Well, if I’m being totally honest, let’s change “often” to “always.”)
The fact that I had such a hard time getting them to try new foods was baffling to me. When they were babies, I whipped up baby food with every wholesome vegetable and grain imaginable, and they would eat my delicious concoctions without hesitation. I mentally awarded myself a gold star in the nutrition department. I was a mac’n’cheese avoiding, broccoli-chopping kind of mum! That is, until my spinach-eating oldest son started cutting out more and more foods until pasta with a bit of salt, butter and cheese on the side became his most coveted dish.
When my younger son soon entered the same phase, I worried. Had I failed them in their earliest years by not introducing kale and agave nectar? Could I have insisted on salmon for dinner more often, and not caved for a more kid-friendly meal? Maybe. And while logic tells us our little ones aren’t going to be ordering plain noodles for their wedding day dinner, we worry they may not be getting the right nutrition.
So what is a mother to do? To introduce my kids to new foods, I held weekly “food tasting challenges.” Here’s how it works: Instead of presenting a plate of unknowns at dinnertime, choose a totally different time of the day to host your taste challenge. Tell your kids they’re going to be food critics for the afternoon; they don’t need to swallow—only sample each food. To make the experience fun and engaging, include a palette cleanser, such as little scoops of lemon sorbet or a sip of water. After each tasting, have them fill in a fun chart with stickers that say how they felt about the food, ranging from “Totally gross!” to “Crazy Yummy!” If your child is still refusing to sample new foods despite your efforts to make taste testing fun, try starting with smells and work your way up.
The point of the food challenge is to introduce your kids to new flavors—without the stress of having to eat them at the table. You might also try giving them a little control over what they eat so they feel empowered. I give my kids one choice per meal, like asking if they’d prefer broccoli or carrots, sincemore than one choice can be overwhelming.
While your little one isn’t likely to be eating roasted squash over a bed of arugula anytime soon (although you never know), it’s important to focus on the small wins and be patient. In my mind, the biggest win was turning what used to be a stressful time of the day into a fun chance to relax, all while working on my kids’ abilities to try new things.