Our kids, Solomon and Celia, ages eleven and nine, are pretty good eaters. They aren’t fazed anymore by eating something different nearly every night, and they take my recipe disasters in stride. They even like giving me suggestions to improve the recipes I’m testing (and I’m always testing). But once upon a time, they used to be picky eaters, especially Solomon, who from day one of his life didn’t seem interested in eating much at all.
Since our kids were small, Andrew and I have tried to gently nudge Solomon and Celia to expand their palates. We don’t make separate dinners for the kids, we sit down to dinner together whenever possible, and we put new foods on their plates and encourage them to try a bite or two before deciding if they like it. We praise the kids if they try something new, especially if they like it, and we refrain from criticizing them if they don’t like it. I usually say something cheerful like, “Well, you were adventurous to try it, and maybe you’ll like it when you are older.”
One vegetable our kids had never taken to was Brussels sprouts. Since I don’t often let the kids’ tastes dictate what I make for dinner, last week I roasted some cute little sprouts that I picked up at the farmer’s market. I put one little green guy on each child’s plate and encouraged Solomon and Celia to try it with an open mind. Celia popped the whole thing in her mouth and for the first time; she didn’t make a face! Then, to my shock, she said, “Not bad,” and took a few more from the bowl. Not to be undone, Solomon downed his sprout with nary a grimace and said, ”Mmmm, kind of tastes like broccoli.” He proceeded to eat a few more, dipping them in barbecue sauce.
Now some of you may get a lift when your child brings home a great report card, or when your favorite team wins the World Series (go Phillies!). But me? I get a little crazy when my kids eat a new healthy food, let alone a vegetable maligned by kids (and a lot of grownups) as icky. I doubt those misguided souls have tried my roasted Brussels sprouts or Delectable Brussels sprouts.
Moral of the story? Don’t give up on trying to expand your kids’ palates. Just because they’ve rejected a food in the past (or nearly every food, as the case may be!), my advice is to keep it low key, keep it positive, and keep trying. One day you’ll be as surprised as we were.
P.S. You could try my friend Holly’s approach to feeding her three children. She tells them that they don’t get to vote on whether or not they like a food until they’ve have had three or four bites.