Culinary trickery. Top 6 ways to bamboozle your young kids into eating healthy food.
When my kids were around 2-3 years old, they were happily subsisting on a strict diet of macaroni and cheese and goldfish crackers. Trying new foods was a joke. Despite all my efforts to trick them into taking just a nibble of something unusual, it was consistently met with bitter disappointment.
So I did what any responsible parent would do and consulted the internet. I Googled “how to get kids to try new foods” and came up with some real gems. Here are my top 6 favorite strategies that actually work (I’ve road tested these with great success) for getting your kids to try new foods.
If you’re going to encourage your kids to try new foods, don’t set yourself, and them, up for failure by presenting something like foie gras or Chicken Vindaloo right off the bat. Kids are typically sensitive to texture and spice, so if the food has an “acquired taste”, don’t bother or your kids will never trust your food suggestions again. Start with something you know they’ll like and work your way up as they become more adventurous.
#2 Good Marketing
Which sounds more delectable: “Kids, eat your Brussels sprouts, they’re good for you,” or “Kids, tonight we’re having the teeny tiny heads of lettuce that were grown by Tinkerbell’s fairy cousins for the all the new baby bunnies being born!” Got it? It’s all about selling it. For more tips, get the Charlie & Lola book, I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato which actually got my kids to eat tomatoes. True story.
#3 Food on a Stick
This is the oldest trick in the book and for good reason—it works. Unlike most adults who eat for pure culinary enjoyment, kids like meals to be “entertaining.” You can put most anything on a stick – protein, vegetables, fruit, bread cubes, potatoes, cheese. Tell the kids you’re having Sticks for dinner watch them howl with laughter (immature senses of humor are easy to manipulate). Pro Tip: This trick also works well in lunch boxes. Pro-Pro Tip: Use plastic drink stirrers instead of the stabby wooden kabob sticks. You know why.
#4 Dip, Dip, Dip
Also not new, but very effective. Any new foods could and should be dipped! Dips don’t have to be limited to ranch dressing with veggies. Dips can be cottage cheese, honey, Nutella, cheddar sauce, ketchup. Put it in a special “dip” dish and don’t forget to sell it!
You don’t want to try that yogurt, kids? How about some rainbow sprinkles on that? Done. One teaspoon of rainbow sprinkles is more than a fair trade-off to get your child to eat their yogurt, fruit, cereal, anything! My best friend’s son used to love ketchup so much that she’d put it on his oatmeal because it was the only way he’d eat it. Think big picture and don’t worry about how you got there.
#6 Big Kid Food Mentors
My nephew is six and he literally won’t try any new foods…except when his older cousins are around. If he sees my kids eating something outside of his normal repertoire, he’ll actually try it. And nine times out of ten, he likes it. Little kids love to emulate the older kids they admire, even when they’re eating cranberry sauce.