7 Tips for Raising Fearless Gourmets

Author, blogger, and mom Mary Ostyn shares her family tips for getting kids to try new foods and experience a variety of flavors.

Mexican Tortilla Skilletenlarge
This Mexican-flavored dish, with its tortillas and spicy meat, is similar to enchiladas but much quicker to make. Recipe: Mexican Tortilla Skillet

4. Mix it up!

We eat a huge variety of food at our house. One day we may have Korean sushi (kimbap) for dinner. Another night we'll serve Mexican Tortilla Skillet. Because our kids routinely see new dishes, they're used to jumping in and trying them. I always try to serve a familiar thing or two along with the less familiar. For example, rice, bread, green salad, and carrot sticks appear frequently, and serve to fill in the cracks if a kid doesn't love the main dish that evening.

5. Don't give up.

Studies have shown that kids need to taste a new food 10 times to acclimate their taste buds. Many times a child will initially dislike something new, but after tasting it a few times will change their minds. We have a couple of kids who have persistent, strong dislikes to one or two foods. That's OK, and again, I am lenient when a kid really, truly hates something.

6. Try salad-bar-style meals.

Serving tacos, fajitas, or baked potatoes with lots of possible toppings gives kids control over what they eat. My kids know that Mom expects them to choose some veggies, and occasionally I'll need to remind someone to take some tomatoes along with all that cheese. But when given choice, they will usually happily serve up their favorite veggies, and sometimes kids will surprise me by taking veggies I thought they didn't like. For example, the other day one of my older Ethiopian daughters served herself mushrooms, which she despised when she first arrived in America.

7. Is there a downside to our plan? 

Well, some day you may have just little pizza dough in the fridge. You'll spread it out on an oiled cookie sheet, and you'll pile it high with fresh spinach, sweet peppers, mushrooms, sliced avocado, and mozzarella cheese. By the time you're done, this pizza is a masterpiece. You're happily picturing inhaling it almost single-handedly. You set out nachos to decoy the kids. If you had normal kids, this would work. But your kids, veggie-lovers since babyhood, barely look at the nachos. They head straight for the pizza, and happily gobble down almost every speck of it. Leaving just one piece of veggie-pizza heaven for Mom. Ah well; no plan is perfect.


Find out more food-related family tips and budget-friendly advice on Mary's blog,  Owlhaven, or her book,  Family Feasts for $75 a Week.

Mary Ostyn
Aug, 2010
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