How to Raise a Diverse Eater

Okay so this blog is dedicated to all the new moms out there.  Your conversations change when you become a mom.  Suddenly what and when your child eats and what and when your child poops becomes extremely important.  So important that you might find yourself discussing it over dinner or at a cocktail party.  Today’s topic is not about poop (although that is always a colorful conversation) it is about food.  Blessed are the children who eat everything but how do you get that to happen.

I love food.  I love to cook and I especially love to eat.  Having a picky child was not something I was totally prepared to deal with so I started training their palettes early.  Now my three girls have their own foodblog (threelittleforks.com), they know how to cook and there are very few foods they don’t like or at least won’t try.  One unexpected side effect of their pallets is the cost.  Chicken tenders and mac and cheese of the kiddie menu would not do!  They wanted ceviche or things with truffles…  Sometimes I had to say no because eating out with them was too expensive!

So here are a few things I did to develop eaters:

  1. I was okay with my kids being hungry.  That is right you heard it right here and guess what, child services never took them away.  If your kids are hungry they are more likely to try something that isn’t out-right offensive.  I wasn’t big on using snacks or milk as a filler.  I gave them meals that they looked forward to.  Now, I didn’t starve them, I just didn’t have them snacking on cheerios and cheese sticks throughout the day.  Having a diverse diet of different proteins and vegetables meant that they were getting all of their nutrients from their food. I would give them a small amount if we had to much time between meals.  I also never gave them much milk.  I mean if you had a protein shake that was delicious, would turn around and try salmon for the first time?
  2. Try to present them with different kids of food.  With variety so they are use to seeing new foods and not being intimidated by them.  Also, you need to lead by example.  The will eat what you eat.  I use to see that if I was eating a dog turd my children would ask to taste it.  They were more interested with what was on my plate then theirs.  I rarely ate a snack or a meal that didn’t have everyone’s saliva on it.  Even if they didn’t like it they wanted to taste it to see what I was eating.  If you are a picky and unadventurous eater, chances they will be too.
  3. I deliberately gave them strong tasting herbs and condiments.  Many times I would add it to their baby food.  Okay as babies we have to make sure we go easy on salt and foods that are high allergy risks but garlic, cumin, onions, cilantro, ginger and vinegars are good for you and don’t usually cause allergies.  They are also very strong flavors.  I would put this in my girls foods when the age was appropriate so that they would start getting use to it.  There were pretty little but they did fine and they loved it.  Now my kids love all these flavors and more allowing them to be open to different types of cuisines.
  4. I continued introducing new foods even if they didn’t like it.  So my girls were insisted that they didn’t like salad.  I would make sure I served every night for weeks.  Just a small amount that sat on their plates.  Of course they did what all kids did.  They protested and told me to take it off their plates.  They through tantrums and I negotiated with them that they didn’t have to eat it but they couldn’t take food off their plate because that was what we as a family were having for dinner.  Then they stopped protesting that it was on their plate because they were use to it.  At this point I told them they had to taste it.  Of course, they protested.  I said if they tasted it (any component of the salad) that whether they liked it or not they would not have to eat any more but they could not spit it out.  I don’t like making them feel bad for actually liking something or embarrassing them so I never focused on whether they liked or not, I just celebrated that they tried it.
  5. I explained to them that anything could taste good if cooked correctly.  That they may not like it a certain way but may love it another.  Yes, I spoke a ton to my children and I explained everything even before they could talk.  I figured I would never really know when the understanding chip would switch to on so I just hedged my bets and spoke to them as if they could understand it all.  (I also never avoided big words. I figured if you were starting from zero understanding it was just as easy to understand a great vocab word to a simple one).  Let’s take seafood for example.  My girls (all three of them) would tell everyone that they HATED seafood.  However, if you asked them what their favorite food was they would say Ceviche.  Raw fish (cooked in the acid of lemons).  When I would say you don’t like seafood they would say that was the only one they liked.  This went on for years!  But I would use this to have them try other types of seafood.  Slowly they added “likes”.  Okay we now like fried calamari and ceviche but no fish.  Okay they only fish we like is snapper oreganato.  Finally just this last month my youngest tried salmon for the billionth time.  Each time she proclaimed that it was too fishy and she hated it.  She knows we always try things to see if they taste better and this last time she did and LOVED it.  She now wants it everyday.  Did I mention how expensive it could be to have kids that like to eat?!?!
  6. Once they are old enough include them in your cooking. I taught all of them how to crack an egg at two.  They then learned how to make scrambled eggs.  They then wanted to add things to the eggs.  If they cook it they are more likely to try it. You will also raise independent children that will learn how to cook for themselves and if you are lucky, for you.  The harder part is getting them to do the dishes….

If you want to see them in action check out www.threelittleforks.com.


4 thoughts on “How to Raise a Diverse Eater

  1. Thank you for posting this. It is a great post! I get a lot of backlash for making my babies food purées with interesting and unique spices, but I want to open her up to all kinds of foods. Thank you for making me feel like I’m doing a great job 🙂

  2. I wrote a whole reply but I think it got lost! Part of what I said though was that I was very similar with my daughter and she’ll try anything at least once. Another thing that I think helped is it wasn’t always on her to be the adventurous one, we often try something new together, so we’re in it together. We joke that as long as it will sit still enough for us to put a fork in it, its going down the hatch… 🙂

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