When I first embarked on this Cooking with My Kid adventure, my kid’s palate was pretty limited. Like most toddlers he was picky about a lot of things and he was certainly not interested in trying new things like spinach or veggie sausage or salad. Today, after just a few short months of cooking together, my kid’s palate has dramatically expanded. It’s music to my ears when he says “Yummy SPINACH!” or “Can I please try that?” I now realize is that preparing the food together and serving it creatively makes all the difference. Kids can and do enjoy new foods when they are a part of a process. You don’t have to fool a picky eater by hiding ingredients, just figure out how to pique his food curiosity. Below I’ve listed my top 10 tips for adventurous eating. AKA: how to deal with a picky eater! Check back often for recipes and tips that are particularly helpful making your picky eater more curious about cuisine.
10 Tips for Adventurous Eating (AKA: How to Deal with a Picky Eater!)
1. Cook Together!
Ok, so you knew I’d say that. The number one best way to deal with a picky eater is to get him involved in the cooking process. There’s a certain pride in ownership and kids are much more likely to try the things they’ve had a hand in making.
2. Garden of Eatin’
Where food comes from is really interesting to a kid. Visit a farm or orchard, get to a local farmers market or plant an herb garden. Your kid will be very proud of the fact that he had a hand in growing, picking or harvesting the food in his dinner!
Ban the words “you’ll spoil your dinner” from your house… especially while you are cooking together! Let your kid try the ingredients you are using and encourage him to talk about what he’s tasted. Don’t be afraid to let him have a pinch of salt or a slice of raw onion. And if he’s hungry while you are cooking, set out some nuts or raisins that he can munch on while you cook. No one likes to starve while handling all that food!
4. Mix It Up
Don’t try to change your picky eater into a gourmet eater overnight. Make one new thing at a time and put it on the plate next to the frozen chicken nuggets you’ve heated up. He will be more likely to try a new food when it is sitting right next to one he’s comfortable with. Keep trying and don’t give up. Put it on the plate in lots of different forms. If he removes it, that’s ok.
5. Tools & Tricks
Get some new kitchen tools and label them with your kid’s name. Tell your kid they are his. Let him use his tools to cook and add new tools to the arsenal every so often. And try some fun eating tricks using different utensils than usual. Challenge him to feed himself new foods using kid’s chopsticks, toothpicks or mini tongs. (Added bonus: This also builds fine motor skills.)
6. Skill Building
Be smart, keep close and be careful but PLEASE don’t be afraid to let your kid try out a knife, peel some veggies or grate some cheese. Start with a butter knife and soft foods like bananas. Build up to more challenging tasks as your kid gets older and better at the prep work. Don’t be picky about how they cut things! After all, we are trying to ban pickiness!
7. Plan for Company
It is always a pleasure to watch other people enjoy what you’ve cooked for them. Encourage your kid to make something for daddy, or the neighbors or even his stuffed animal. Feeding someone else will fill your kid with pride and may very well get him to try something he may not have otherwise touched.
8. Dipping, Spreading, Blending & Topping
Whenever possible pick a recipe that involves dipping, blending (in a blender!) spreading or adding a topping. These are all fun and easy ways to involve your kid. Let them get messy with it — that’s what kids like!
9. Sit back
Sure, making something with your kid is a great way to get him to try new things, but he may not always want to try it! Offer once. Remind him of other things he tried that he liked after he tried them. After that just sit back and let him explore the food himself. If he doesn’t try what he’s made its OK. Don’t give up and don’t be pushy or mad. Sit back and enjoy his creation. He’ll come around.
10. Eat Together
We’re all busy and it’s so much easier to feed the kids early and then eat your own dinner later. But, let’s face it, it’s not fun to eat alone and picky eaters tend to be less picky when they have company at the table. Make a commitment to eat with your kid, especially when you’ve made something together.