Picky eaters are the ruin of many otherwise peaceful family dinners. When you’re on the road and the menu expands from broccoli and kale to sushi and scorpion? That’s when things can get really tricky. But food is too important of a cultural experience to miss. So how can you help kids eat foreign food (without ruining the night)?
The one-bite rule – We all want our kids to eat international fare as easily as they devour a plate of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. But this takes time.
As an adult, I can devour anything before me – and I have. I’ve chowed down on dog hair enchiladas, sea turtle stew, and Swallow (as in the bird) spit. But as a kid, I gagged on beans and tomatoes. Overcoming this just took me time and repeated exposures, which is what I’m providing my kids now.
The one-bite rule can help expand kids’ palettes without causing them to dig in their heels.
It’s as simple as it sounds. Everyone is required to eat at least one bite of the dish. That’s it. If they don’t? They miss out on dessert or other bonuses. If they do, be happy about the bite and move on. No cajoling to eat more.
Here are a few more tips to help build your child’s adventurous palate:
- Don’t make a big deal out of it. No cajoling or demanding. Once everyone knows the one-bite rule, there’s no need to make a fuss.
- Do praise them for trying. Food isn’t scary. No matter what we may think of bugs or reptiles or any other edible item, it’s just food. Still, trying new things can be scary – especially kids. They deserve praise for exhibiting bravery and stepping outside their comfort zone. Tell them you’re proud of them and that you admire their adventurous spirit.
- Discuss the food. Talk to your kids about what you’re eating. Ask what it tastes like to them. Get their opinion. Discuss why the food is eaten in that area and what it means to the culture. Encourage them to share their insights with others.
- Lead by example. Try interesting foods with enthusiasm, then share your thoughts with your kids. You don’t have to pretend to like everything but a healthy enthusiasm for trying is contagious. And an honest response will show them that their responses (whatever they may be) are valid too.
- Try new things at home. Make a habit of eating internationally at home. Cook up South American fare. Order in Thai cuisine. Try Vietnamese. There’s no wrong answer. Just try a variety and make it fun!
Instilling a willingness to try new foods is a wonderful thing. It shows kids that they can overcome fear and say yes to life. This will yield positive dividends far beyond the nutritional benefits of seaweed and calamari.