Often, I am asked how I get my kids to eat the foods that I cook.
Honestly, it’s not always easy, but I do try to make it fun. Early on, I began letting the kids pick out a new food each week (fruit or vegetable) to incorporate into our menu plan. Sure, taking the kids grocery shopping with me was sometimes an “adventure,” but I really think it helped the kids see the world of food that was available for them to eat.
When we lived in Denver, we shopped at the regular grocery stores, as well as farmer’s markets and a couple of ethnic grocery stores, which was always fun for us, as we got to taste test foods that other cultures eat. Thankfully, our family has been able to travel around the world, exposing the kids to a variety of new tastes, textures and cuisines. While in South Africa, the kids (and the parents) had their first tastes of lychee fruit, as well as a butternut squash served a variety of ways, specifically a tasty and creamy soup, which we re-created at home. In Costa Rica, we all enjoyed plantains, that oozed with butter and brown sugar goodness. I mean, really, who could turn that down? And the fruit there–absolutely amazing! We enjoyed bananas that tasted like no other, mangos and papaya. So yummy! When we arrived home from our travels, I was able to make a point of reference to the kids while we were grocery shopping, “Oh, remember these from South Africa/Costa Rica?”
And, trust me, you don’t have to travel around the world to entice your kids to try new foods. Why not just involve them in the food selection, menu planning and meal preparation? Now that my kids have gotten older (they are now 5 yearsand 7 years), I have begun to have them assist me even more. In some ways, shopping is even more of an adventure now than when they were younger. Nevertheless, I still invite them to come along every now and again. Each Sunday night, I formulate my menu plan for the week. I try to remember to ask the kids (and my husband) if there is a particular meal, ingredient (usually a vegetable or fruit), or a specific international cuisine (we love Indian, Chinese and Hispanic foods) that they’d like to enjoy that week. As well, some of the most fun and meaningful times that I have had with my children is when we are cooking together. For me, my kitchen is my “cave,” a place where I escape to create. (Odd, I know, especially since I am a musician. Yet, this is where I find my “creative space”) However, I make a point to invite them to help and not to always turn them away (even if I am really busy) when they ask to help, or are just lingering around waiting for me to give them something to do. Sure, it takes a bit longer than usual, but life is all about creating memories. I, for one, am learning to slow down and purposefully do just that.
Getting kids to try new foods, tastes and textures, takes time, energy and effort. Oftentimes, it means parents have to be willing to step out of comfort zones, too. How about picking up some kids’ cookbooks from the library or bookstore? A dear friend from Denver, who the kids call “Grandma Jeanine,” purchased us a few, which we have really enjoyed. Check out some websites that are particularly geared to kids in the kitchen. Here is one to try: Kid-Friendly Recipes and Meal Makeover Moms, which has an area in their recipe section entitled, “Kid Food Makeovers.”
I truly believe that God created all these wonderful foods, tastes and textures for us to enjoy. Have a culinary adventure with your kids. It doesn’t have to be fussy or fancy, but it surely will be fun. And you will never regret the time spent with your kids, even if there is a mess to clean up. The mess is well worth the outcome.