Kids can be predictable when it comes to food; once they discover a food they like, they will want it for almost every meal. When kids discover a favorite food or dish, it gives them a sense of control and familiarity. My daughter is the carb-Queen. If she could have “cheesy pasta” with rice served over mashed potatoes every night she would. My slightly more adventurous son’s diet would solely consist of shrimp, hamburgers (without the cheese) and fish sticks. However, kids cannot live on pasta and chicken nuggets alone and parents want their kids to have a balanced diet and to try new foods.
My wife and I are what some would consider foodies. We like good food and we like to try new cuisines out at restaurants or cooking at home. I often get the question from my kids,”Ewwww, why do you want to eat THAT?!?” For some adults, it’s hard to explain to kids why they like a certain cuisine or why they like being adventurous when it comes to food. We can always find something kid-friendly at a restaurant but getting them to try new foods can be quite the challenge. Here are a couple of the ways we have found to get our picky eaters to be a little more adventurous when it comes to eating.
When you are at fair or festival, or in Texas the rodeo, try to find interesting fair food. Kids will get excited about the fact that they are getting food in a fun way. The portions are small, which will allow kids to eat with their hands (sometimes) and you won’t feel guilty about wasting money on a meal at a restaurant. Also, it’s a great way for kids to learn about different cultures and foods. My kids are not opposed to trying things like dumplings (kinda look like ravioli) or fritters or anything you can eat on a stick.
Sneak an Ingredient
When kids are used to their favorite foods, they most likely won’t notice a new ingredient. Sneaking in a new ingredient that is finely chopped will help them see that they can combine foods and be introduced to something new. For example, if you want to introduce your kids to a different type of meat (e.g. lamb), you can chop it up and add it to their favorite spaghetti sauce and pasta. My kids love the fried rice from Asian restaurants so we make it at home and I can sneak in finely chopped veggies and leftover meat to make a one-dish, well-rounded meal.
Food Delivery Services
Sometimes it is easier to get your kids to explore a new cuisine at school. If they see their friends trying a new food, they will most likely try it too. Also, you can ask your school administrator to partner with Revolution Foods. They are a food service that delivers culturally different meals that are healthy and nutritious to schools. They promote engagement with students with surveys about the meals, to get their input and to get them excited about eating healthy. Revolution Foods also engages with communities by using locally-sourced ingredients.
Go Shopping and Cook Together
Having your kids help in the shopping and in the preparing of a new dish are great ways to get them engaged in a new cuisine. They will learn about each ingredient and the country the dish is from as well as how to follow directions (recipe). My daughter has her own recipe books and just recently we got her a membership to Rad Dish (“raddish”, get it?) Kids. Rad Dish delivers a kit every month with 3 recipes, information about the dishes and nutrition, lists of ingredients and step-by-step cooking instructions with easy-to-follow pictures. We love it! We discuss which dishes we want to make then we shop, cook and eat them together. You will find that when your kids are more invested in the selection and creation of the meal, they are much more likely to eat it.
Getting your kids to be more open-minded in their eating will lead to them being open to trying new activities in other aspects of their lives—a new sport, arts and crafts, music … etc. As parents, it is not about dictating what our kids should like or not—but encouraging them to explore and try so they can figure it out for themselves.
Erik Halvorsen is a devoted father, loving husband, and ambitious innovator; he is consistently searching for new technology to help cure diseases, benefit patients’ lives, and change how we experience healthcare. He was named one of the top 30 Chief Innovation Officers in healthcare in the country, and he has been listed as one of the Top 40 Under 40 in Boston. Erik is also a member of the Forbes Technology Council.