By Mindy Myers, Director, Cooking Round the World
“I don’t eat green food!” announced a merry and determined Cooking Round the World camper to the surprised staff. “I only eat white food!”
It is not uncommon for children to turn their nose down at foods that are unknown to them. Young children sometimes gravitate to foods without strong flavor, like white food, but those foods are also often without nutrition. Some parents worry that their children will “starve” and so they comply with their children’s limited food preferences
So how does a parent broaden their child’s pallet?
According to Charity Curley Mathews Founder of Foodlets.com, it starts in the store. Mathews encourages parents with children who are food-limited to bring their children to the grocery store’s produce aisle. She believes that getting a children involved in dinner’s food selection will have a positive outcome. Having children smell new foods, even break off a leaf for a taste is a way to demystify the new food. Comments like, “Isn’t this color amazing!” or “Mmmmm. This is delicious” works as a set-up for their positive response.
Educational and interesting facts about new foods helps bring about enticement. “Did you know coconuts are giant nuts that grow in palm trees and they have sweet milk inside? Let’s try one. You can put it in the cart.” Having the child place the new food in the cart is a small act of food acceptance.
Adding a small amount of a new food, especially a vegetable, to a soup is a great way to introduce new flavors. Purees are especially good. I find that adding a tried and true starch, like a noodle or rice, to a soup can make the soup more appealing.
Adding a “scary food” to a “liked food” often has a good effect. For instance, if your child likes poppy seed muffins next time bake a carrot muffin or a pumpkin muffin. The look of a muffin is the same. It’s one way for a child to get used to a new taste.
Cooking with new food is a great way to broaden a child’s pallet. The hands-on experience removes the scariness of the new food. Chopping, mincing, touching the new food makes it more inviting. We encourage parents to invite their children into the kitchen to cook with them. Not only will it make food less scary but it’s also a great parent/child bonding experience.
Don’t yuck my yum” is the phrase we say at Cooking Round the World when a child puts down food that someone else is enjoying. We encourage children to try new foods, but if they refuse, to say “No thank you.” At Cooking Round the World we do not believe in forcing a child to eat anything. That said, we do insist that children not make negative comments that turn off others who do like the food.
We found that when children listen to their peers raving about a new food, they are more apt to try a new food. Each day at Cooking Round the World camp we cook and serve 4 – 6 dishes from a country of the day. Nothing way out like snails or octopus, but for many of the children the food combinations are new. We go around the table talking about what we’re eating, and children are discerning about the flavors.
It is not infrequent that a child who doesn’t initially want the food comes back and says, “OK. I’ll try a little.” We make a big deal of this; call the child brave and give a round of applause. It’s a step towards food openness.
They say that a child needs to try a new food 7 times before accepting it into their trove of foods they are willing to eat. With patience and a good strategy we believe even the pickiest of eaters will soon be eating spinach, basil and tomato risotto……….. and enjoying it!
Tomato, Basil and Spinach Risotto
Serves 4; takes 40 minutes
- Bring 2.5 cups chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep hot
- Mince 1 shallot and place in a pan with butter to soften. Mix with wooden spoon for 3 minutes.
- Mince 1 clove garlic and add to shallot pan. Mix for 1 minute more.
- Add rice then stir to coat in butter. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by rice. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth then stir continuously until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until nearly absorbed before adding more.
- Wash the tomatoes then cut them in half. De-seed the tomatoes then chop them up. Add to the risotto.
- Wash the spinach then coarsely chop up and add to the rice pan. Mix
- Tear up two handfuls of basil and add to pan. Mix.
- Last add the parmesan cheese add salt & pepper to taste.
2.5 cups chicken broth; 1 tablespoon butter, 1 shallot, 1 clove garlic, 3/4 cup arborio rice, 1/4 cup dry wine, 2 tomatoes, 2 cups spinach, bunch fresh basil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Cutting board, knife, 2 saucepans, wooden spoon, can opener, measuring cup, teaspoon for deseeding, colander for washing spinach.