As a child, I was a horribly picky eater, and so thin…food struggles were pretty regular around my house. Fortunately, I was still exposed to a lot of different kinds of food, having so many multicultural friends and experiences, and as an adult I’m not so picky.
Still, I determined to try to change that for my son, and I am blessed to have a child that will try pretty much anything. While some of that has to be genetic (from Dad), I’d like to think some of my crazy methods worked:)
And so, without further ado, let’s get down to business!
1. From day one, let your child determine when they’re hungry and when they’re done eating. Now please understand I do think it’s wise to offer a child milk, and later, food at regular times. However, if they’re not hungry don’t force it. Note that I am not an advocate of allowing a child to skip meals only to eat junky snacks later. If my son didn’t have much breakfast when he was younger, for instance, I’d save his food for later or pack some healthy food if we were going out. Also, some parents try to push their kids to eat– but really, when’s the last time you heard of a normal child starving themselves to death?
2. Starting when your child is very young (if you still can), try to keep a lot of variety in your diet, and encourage your child to try it all with you. Don’t make a big deal about it, just serve it on their plates with everything else. Remember, sometimes it takes several exposures to a food before a child will try or like it.
3. Early on, institute a “try one bite rule”, and stick to it with a no nonsense attitude as if there was no other option. I do not condone trying to force a child to eat any more than that, however.
4. Make trying new foods like an adventure. Many times, we like to pick up something new and strange when we go to the grocery store. Here we have a neat store called Sprouts, where we can score good deals on a large variety of fruits and veggies. One day my mom was incredulous over the phone as I told her I was looking up how to serve persimmons. “You mean you bought them and you don’t even know what to do with them?” Yep, that’s just what we do. Buy first, then figure it out. I had never seen persimmons sold in the other 2 states we’ve lived in and we were curious. Delicious!!!
5. Try foods from other cultures. Okay, this one actually rides the coattails of the last one, but it was getting a little long. We’ve made excursions to Asian or Mexican grocery stores for years. You will see some wild things there (or they might seem wild to you if you are a US native), so for young kids it best to try to stick to certain kinds of foods to start. In fact, I guess I would mostly recommend sweets (even though I’m usually NOT really big on giving kids sweets) so your child gets a nice first impression. One such food is ice cream Mochi. Basically, these are little ice cream balls wrapped up in sweet rice flour dough. Yum! (there’s also a more traditional sort filled with bean curd, but try the ice cream first). Botan are little square candies made from sweet rice flour, and they’re so cool! You take off an outer wrapper and there’s another wrapper underneath made of rice that dissolves in your mouth. Kids think that’s pretty neat. Pocky are little cookie sticks dipped in chocolate or strawberry flavored goodness. If you want something less sweet, you might follow this recipe for Russian blini’s (like crepes), or you can pick up some Polish pierogi’s (dumplings filled with mashed potatoes, usually) at the regular grocery store in the freezer section.