My kids are not adventurous eaters. I’ve had to work hard at introducing new foods. In fact, they were most curious when I first introduced solids, but by 18 months they became highly skeptical of most food. They would glare suspiciously at new things as though a fatal poisoning was about to take place. I would present, they would reject, and so it went. The experts told me to present the same food up to 20 times and not force them to eat it. But I reckon I introduced broccoli about 150 times and it was still rejected!
“Fussy stages” are pretty common amongst toddlers. But now that my eldest is six and my youngest is three, I am fighting back. In my bid to make mealtimes less stressful and more fun, I have adopted a new strategy. And it begins with taking back some control. One thing I’ve learnt is you will never broaden a child’s food horizons by asking them what they want for dinner each night. They need to be encouraged to try different foods, with some real flavor. This might not work with a spicy vindaloo, but consider how many Aussies love vegemite purely because they grew up on it?
While I appreciate that each child is different and entitled to favour some foods over others, I do think kids need to be open to new and exciting flavours. Being a foodie, I want nothing more than my kids to embrace new tastes and be passionate about food. So, in my quest to extend their palates, I have introduced a night dedicated to trying new foods.
Try Something New Tuesday
Try Something New Tuesday is all about broadening my children’s palates by offering meals that are diverse in flavour and presentation. It also means that I try a different recipe or new ingredient, which helps stave off cooking boredom. Often TSNT might have an international focus, which provides a good opportunity to talk about other cultures and foods. Before dinner, I show them on a map which country the meal is from and this builds some excitement for dinner. Over dinner we teach them a few words of the language (which may have been Googled just prior to dinner!)
Some of our TSNT victories include dumplings, which involve the theatre of bringing the steamer to the table and allowing the kids to experiment with chopsticks for a bit of fun. I have also introduced them to Japanese flavours with a “sushi and soba” dinner. Fregola (Italian semolina pasta, similar to large couscous) was a big hit served with prawns, cherry tomatoes and lemon. We showed them the boot shape of Italy on a world map and taught them a few Italian phrases. Success – the meal got a “molto bene” response from all three kids! Mexican wraps have been another success. We bring individual bowls of shredded lettuce, capsicum, corn, salsa and guacamole to the table and some mini tongs and they go nuts serving themselves. It’s messy, but messy means fun. And fun means clean plates.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be Tuesday in your house, but kids do love routines and rituals. By making this a weekly event, my children have come to anticipate it with enthusiasm. Not every meal I present is a winner, but I don’t expect a perfect strike-rate. The key is to avoid expectations but to present new and interesting flavour combinations for them to taste and hopefully enjoy.
Give this a go at your place. It will drive you to try something new yourself, given that many parents fall into a rut of cooking the same meals on a weekly rotation. I look forward to TSNT, and, paired with a glass of wine and happy kids, it’s actually a highlight of the week.
For more tasty recipes, be sure to visit my baking page for all recipes, savoury and sweet! You can also search the hashtag NASD or TSNT on instagram to find my recipes.
*My TSNT post first appeared on Kidspot