After putting my toddler to bed couple of nights ago, I went and snuggled with my older daughter for a bit. We don't do this every night but I like to sneak little moments with each child alone so that we can have real conversations. Like this one.
"Mommy, when I grow up I want to travel all over the world and try their foods. I want to go to Canada, and Austria, oh, and France! (grabs my face with both her hands and looks in my eyes) Mommy, I am definitely going to go to Poland so I can try every single one of their foods. (turns head back toward the ceiling) And Russia would be fun! Maybe China, too. Wouldn't that be fun?"
I kissed her cheek and told her that it sounded like a lot of fun.
She giggled and said "But I'm not eating Sea Cucumber. That's the poopy hole of the ocean." Thank you, Andrew Zimmern.
Some tips for raising adventurous eaters:
1. Start while you are pregnant. According to a new study (one of many on this subject), babies start tasting the foods their mother eats while still in the womb.
2. If at all possible, breastfeed. And eat a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables, spices and flavorful healthy foods. Just because you don't like a food doesn't mean you can't eat a bit of it once in a great while to expose baby to it. Baby can taste what you eat in your breast milk, after all.
3. Don't forget the spices. When introducing baby to solids, remember that spices can be used to give vegetables and fruits a more complex flavor once it is safe to do so.
4. Keep exposing baby to new foods throughout their life. Taste buds keep changing as children grow. We have a rule in our house, you have to take two bites of every new food. If you don't like it after, you don't have to eat it, but you do have to try it.
5. Give your child more credit. They might love more foods than you realize. Or more foods than you like.
6. Never say in front of a child that you don't like a food. Never. This was our problem with our first daughter since my husband a couple of times made comments about not liking vegetables and so did a few other friends and family. Those couple of small meaningless comments led to a battle for more than a year where my older daughter did not want to eat any vegetables and of course became constipated and more irritable.
7. Travel with your child. It doesn't matter where to. To another town, another country. And don't allow them to eat their "comfort foods" while there. I told my older daughter there were no french fries or macaroni and cheese in Poland while we were there. She ate other foods and loved it. I've done the same when we have traveled to West Virginia, Delaware, Georgia, and even moved to Illinois from Maryland.
8. Take a cultural theme and build a meal around it. We have had Swiss, South African, Tunisian, Russian, Mexican, British tea parties, and other themed dinners. While eating the foods from these countries, we talk about the country and its culture. You can make this more fun by making a culinary "passport" which your child can put a stamp in for each country you "visit" together.
9. Try a restaurant that is outside your norm. Check out a local Indian restaurant, a Peruvian restaurant or even an authentic Italian restaurant and order something that you don't normally think of when you think of Italian food.
10. Have a "cultural" potluck with other families and assign each person a different country or ingredient.
11. To me, this is the biggest tip to remember. Show your children where their foods come from. Go to a farm weekly if possible and learn firsthand where foods come from, perhaps even have them pick their own foods. Go to local food distributor plants or manufacturers and tour their plant, if possible. Think dairy farms, ice cream manufacturers, candy factories, bakeries, local butchers, a plant where pickles and other canned foods are made, etc.
12. Let your children help you cook. They will be much more likely to eat muffins made with raisins, ground flax seed, and applesauce if they can stir the ingredients together, or eat a salad if they helped tear up the leaves.
13. Put on cooking and travel shows. Your children might not watch it, but they might glance over and see it or hear it. Ask me how my daughter knows about people eating Sea Cucumber and Andrew Zimmern (see above).
14. Don't become a short-order cook. If your child won't eat it, you don't have to make them something else. If they are growing fine and the pediatrician has no concerns about them being underfed, you can leave the plate on the table and offer it again when they say they are hungry later. My older daughter doesn't eat as much sauerkraut as she would "noodles" (fried cabbage) but I won't make her something else for dinner when I serve sauerkraut.
15. Keep trying. If my mother had not kept trying, I would not love half the foods I love.
Nie od razu Kraków zbudowano (Krakow wasn't built all at once). The same goes for raising a child to be an adventurous eater.
Kasia Price writes on Polish Mama on the Prairie
Born with Gypsy Blood (travel bug) & a love for good food, history & nature. Married to a dirty hippy, Mama to two future Miss Poland candidates.
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Image Credit: eyeliam on Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.
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