I grew up a very picky eater and became anxious when invited to dinner at friends’ houses as a child. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a very adventurous-eating family. Since we have been married, Andy’s great cooking skills have changed my eating habits, and now we make a hobby of trying new foods and unique restaurants. We look forward to including our sons, Lucas (4 years old) and Adam (3 years old) on these culinary adventures.
Here are three helpful hints that we have gathered from various sources to grow our boys into future foodies!
1. Spice up the food that you serve.
Why shouldn’t infants and toddlers get to enjoy food the way adults do? Spices and herbs bring out the flavors in food and enhance the overall eating experience. We made our own baby food and added cinnamon to sweet potatoes, lime juice to avocados, and the “Rudolph family seasoning blend” to grilled veggies. Today, we add maple syrup to butternut squash and balsamic vinegar to mushrooms to make these items more palatable to our boys’ young, impressionable taste buds.
2. Let children help in the kitchen.
Since they were able to sit up, we’ve included our boys in the preparation of our family meals. As infants, they would take in the sounds and smells of dinner cooking. Today, they both know the ingredients to their favorite dishes, and they get to help us cook. This involvement gives the boys ownership in what they are eating and creates excitement around trying new dishes. We encourage the boys to taste and smell the individual ingredients as we put together dishes. This helps them develop a sense of what flavors they like paired together and how these combinations change the individual flavors of raw ingredients.
3. Involve children in the growing and purchasing of the ingredients.
I find the boys get really excited about eating produce they help plant, water, and harvest. They love helping take care of our herbs, fruit trees, and vegetable garden. The boys also get excited about going to the grocery and helping us make our purchases for the week. Why not give them a say at the grocery store on what will be on the menu this week? If your kids learn to appreciate healthy foods, they will make good choices and feel like they have some control over what they are eating.