As a mom of 3, it’s often difficult to find meal ideas that everyone can enjoy. Most kids are turned off by a variety of foods and as a parent, trying to get them to eat it can be exhausting and unnerving.
Friends often watch my kids eat with amazement. They chalk it up to having been lucky. I am lucky (my kids are great), but developing my kids’ eating habits and ensuring that they’ll eat what’s in front of them was not an accident. It has been a work in progress since before they were born. How did I do it? Below are the guidelines we follow at home.
Chef Carla’s house rules to having gourmet children (based on my own experience with my kids):
- Variety is the spice of life. Its often difficult to step out of our mould, but the effort is well worth the reward. Introduce 1 new food every couple of weeks. (If you’re expecting, this rule also applies. My baby is the least fussiest eating baby I have ever met… she’s never even made a funny “what’s that taste?” face. But she was conceived while I was at Chef School – I attribute her very developed palate on the variety she received in the womb… but it is always best to check with your doctor, first).
- We all have things we just don’t like. Allow each kid to pick 2 items that are blacklisted. These are 2 things that, if you serve it, they don’t have to eat it no matter what (unless they want to). My kids all have consensus on mushrooms. They also agree on not liking clams/mussels. I don’t feed them mushrooms nor clams/mussels. There’s no point in forcing it. I know they’ll come around eventually 😉
- If you haven’t tried it, you can’t not like it. Everything must be tasted 3 times (a good sized spoonful/forkful) before they are allowed to say: “I don’t like it”. It’s natural not to like unfamiliar things, new recipes or even foods you’ve never really given a chance to. We need to teach ourselves to like things. Why must it be tasted 3 times? The first is to remove the shock of an unfamiliar flavour or texture. The second is to give your tastebuds a chance to get used to the new flavour. And the third taste is to be able to properly evaluate the taste and determine our opinion. If my kids gave it the 3-taste-try and still don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it… But they have to repeat the 3-taste-try the next time I serve it up again. Over time, they get used to it, and end up liking it.
- Make it fun for them... No matter how hard you try, the fussiest of eaters will still have a hard time – so, dig into your inner child and serve it up in a way that’s fun for them. Here’s a great link to give you some ideas on how to do that: 15 Ways to Make Boring Foods Fun « Au Pair Care.
- Be patient! All kids go through phases. Just as their bodies grow and develop, so do their tastes, likes and dislikes. As a child, I was the fussiest of eaters. My grandmother tells me that I sometimes would hold onto a bite of food in my mouth for an hour and now… well, I know few people who’ve tried as large an array of weird foods as I have (but that’s for another post). My kids loved fish, then they hated fish, now they love fish again… = Phases! It’s normal, so, be patient, keep to the guidelines above and watch your kids blossom into gourmet eaters.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share?