There are times in life, particularly as mothers, when you sit back and think to yourself, I guess I did something right. One of those moments happened this evening when both my children devoured their entire plates of dinner. The menu: sole, grilled asparagus tips, and millet. My heart leapt with joy when the five year-old exclaimed, “This is my favorite dinner, mom! I want it every night.” Trust me, I have had a number of battles over dinner with my son over the short years of his life. But throughout, I stuck to my guns and didn’t deviate my dinner menu to suit his tastes. If there was an ingredient that wasn’t to his particular liking, I made him have a small bite, and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to eat it. End of story. Of course, those items would present themselves on his plate again, at which point, he would usually say he didn’t want it, but again, he would have a small bite or two. And so, his palate grew. Within the last few weeks we had a turning point, and my son declared that he now likes, mushrooms, broccoli, and cheese. Whoohoo! I would not place either of my children on the “picky eaters” list, as they both love to eat a wide variety of vegetables, seafood, and meats. However, there are always those few untouchable items, and it’s nice to see your hard work pay off.
While we’re on the topic, I never understood why parents would ever call their children “picky.” Children go through phases of liking one food. Then, doing a 180° turn, they put their noses up in the air when that same item is served. This is totally normal. In fact, if I recall correctly, it may take up to 15 times of trying a certain food before a child accepts it. I think the key to raising a child with an expansive palate is to expose them to a wide variety of foods from babyhood. (And eat a variety yourself, since the fetus develops some taste in the womb, and a newborn, through its mother’s milk.)
Why would children, all over the world, develop palates relating to their national cuisine? Children love different spices and tastes, just like adults do. It’s scary to think that a majority of American children have a rotating menu of mac n’ cheese (out of a box, no less!), hot dogs, pizza, french fries, and chicken nuggets. Listen, I understand the occasional use of these food items, but I find it reprehensible that most restaurants offer these very items on their Children’s Menus. Honestly, what is a child supposed to think he “likes” if all he’s told and all he’s given are these same five items? In the last couple of years, I have seen a few restaurants in New York City begin to offer smaller adult portions for children on their menus. But, I suppose, you could just do what I do when I dine out with my little ones: ask for an extra plate and let them eat a little bit from every other adults’ selection. This way you don’t waste food, you save some money, and your child will have the opportunity to sample a number of different dishes. Seems like a win/win situation to me!
In conclusion, don’t get discouraged when you offer your child something to eat and he refuses it. Keep trying again from time to time. Cook with your children, or at least, let them see what you are making. Talk about food with your kids. And most importantly, be a good example. They probably won’t want fish and asparagus if all they see you eat are hamburgers and potato chips. Happy eating!