Wednesday, November 11, 2009

10 Tips to Tempt Those Tiny Palates (the ethnic version)

I've written about this before, but it bears repeating: whatever you feed your kids when they're young is what they learn to like. We think that curry, hot chili pastes, weird Asian greens, and the like are too weird for young children. What do you think 3-year-olds eat in India, China, Mexico, etc.? They eat "weird" stuff because that's what their families eat.

We have tried a variety of ethnic foods on our children. This has worked to our advantage and our disadvantage. Advantages: they frequently eat fish in most any form, they like most curries, they like Asian stir-fries and have even eaten bok choy, etc. However, they do not appreciate spaghetti or other tomato-sauced dishes (sigh).

This is part of my strategy with the different theme weeks I'm doing: I want my children exposed to a variety of foods, particularly the ones my husband and I enjoy. I think the more frequently they see/taste something, the better. Their memories are still pretty short, so seeing something several times in a week is not a bad idea. And, it helps me to know where the shortcomings are. For instance, during our Indian week, I learned that the kids don't mind a mild curry dish! Who knew?! But, they're not as crazy about garam masala (really, another curry type). I would have expected the opposite.

So, how do you go about introducing your kids to different "weird" flavors?

1. Keep the main ingredients recognizable: chicken, potatoes, rice, whatever. They'll be more likely to try it if they recognize it.

2. Start small: plain rice with a side of chicken curry or stir-fried beef.

3. Start mild: include some minimal heat, but don't throw chipotles in your chili just yet.

4. Provide condiments that enhance flavor and also provide nutrition: marinara sauce, mild salsa, yogurt-based sauces, and so forth. If they end up eating all the sauce and leave the main course, they're still getting some vitamins in!

5. Expect them to eat it! Don't have a back-up plan. Don't allow them to only eat rice. Our kids have to try one bite of everything before they can get seconds or leave the table. (And, yes, this causes WWIII at the dinner table many times.)

6. If they really hate a category of food you love (like pasta), then continue to serve it, but don't overdo it.

7. Keep it varied: continually try new things, eat some old favorites, and try not to get in a rut.

8. Model good taste-testing and food-appreciation. If you don't like something, feel free to say so (after you have tasted it). If they don't like something, don't allow complaining, but don't force it down.

1 comment:

Kelley said...

Thank you nw that grandbabies are here (they live with us) I found I have more grace and will have a plan B just in case they don't like it! They are 2 and 14 months and have been here since birth, so I am going to do this! I am blessed!! Kelley Merry Christmas