Growing an adventurous eater
Cynthia Fauser, MS, RD, LD
Nutrition & Health Education Specialist
I wanted my kids to be good eaters, and as it turned out, they were. It was important to me because good nutrition is based on variety and new experiences, including food as one of life’s pleasures. Adventurous kids were a joy to feed because we could all eat the same things.
Adventure guides were multigenerational. Grandpa’s wicked pleasure was to introduce his grandchildren to pricey menu items like shrimp. I only got a taste of other children’s skittishness about food when friends would come over and eat such limited menus as toasty o’s, bananas and mashed potatoes. That is when I would count my blessings.
Lots of factors go into growing an adventurous eater, including how adventurous Mom is. Last year I learned of research that found the tastes and characteristics of a mother’s diet are shared with her fetus in utero as well as in breast milk. So, amniotic fluid and breast milk reflect the culture into which the baby is born. Breast milk acts as a “flavor bridge” to table foods, paving the way to their introduction.
For those of us past the “New Mom” stage, there are still plenty of ways we can encourage open-mindedness about new food experiences.
· Avoid being a short-order cook. This is the most valuable lesson. “You do not have to like it or eat it, but this is what we are having. Eat the things here you do like. Or you can wait for the next meal.” (Make sure there is always something safe and familiar available.) Kids do not shrivel up and die by missing a meal.
· Eat together. Children are less balky about foods when they are sharing the experience of eating together as family and can watch older members enjoying food and telling stories.
· Keep it light. Include children in the conversation. “What animal do you think eats the strangest food?” “Who is your favorite superhero?”
· Add flavor. Kids may have delicate taste buds, but they really do notice when something tastes good. Try fixing vegetables new ways. Add a pinch of sugar and a dash of ginger to the carrots. Put a little garlic in the potatoes. Bland is blah at any age!
· Get the rest of the family
involved in the selection and preparation—including Dad. Try make-your-own sandwich nights, salad bar or personal pizza nights. Take the kids to the farmers market to pick out new fruits or veggies to try. Personal ownership in what is chosen or assembled really takes the heat off Mom and avoids food battles.
This technique can be especially handy with stepchildren. Stepparents often struggle for the balance between “let’s get along” and “these are our house rules.” Freedom to choose what to eat from what is offered, and how much, keeps the family table a safe place to be.
Personal-Size Pizza Recipe
Pitas make an easy personal-size pizza crust. This recipe is from Zonya Foco’s Lickety-Split Meals. Let each person assemble his or her own.
For each pizza:
1 whole-wheat pita
3 T. spaghetti sauce
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried basil
½ ounce of lean ham, diced
2 T. sliced green pepper
2 T. sliced onion
2 mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1 T. grated Parmesan cheese
Dash red pepper flakes
Turn oven to broil and set rack 6" from heating element. Leave the door ajar. Lay pita flat on baking sheet. Spread with tomato sauce, add herbs and toppings. Complete by sprinkling with cheeses and pepper flakes. Broil 2 - 4 minutes or until cheese is melted and browning. Add a tossed salad and fruit for dessert.
Each pizza: 300 calories; 5 grams
fat, 43 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, 800 mg sodium.