I have written previously about my experience with my older daughter and food issues (fears and sensitivities)- it is hard and stressful, but we have made a lot of progress in the last 18 months. One day I was brainstorming ideas for blog posts and she asked if she could help. To my amazement, using the prompt “5 creative ways to_____” she came up with this topic*. Both my girls helped with the ideas – some we already used in the last 18 months and some new ones we plan for this year still.
1. Blind taste test (have an open mind)
This approach has had a huge impact in our food journey. It started with me refusing to tell the kids what exactly was in the new dish I had made. I explained that I wanted them to have a totally open mind and not be influenced by their views that they don’t like something (ie an ingredient I had used). The dishes were still simple but I finally pushed my 8 year old to try dishes that were not all separated out and “not touching”.
I have them close their eyes (you can use a blindfold for more fun or if it helps) and I feed them a bite or hand them an item to try. They then get a full bite or taste rather than the tiny, fearful nibble we were used to. We talk about the food using their heightened senses – what does it taste like (is it sweet, salty, etc), how does it feel (is it crunchy or smooth?), does it taste like anything familiar? and so on. There has been genuine surprise on their part when they have liked something they (and I) know they would have dismissed previously.
2. What you cook you try
My kids enjoy getting in the kitchen and cooking - either with me or with some supervision as they prepare some creation of their own making. For years though Alice would cook up a storm and then say “no thank you” to eating her own creations. This new approach allows them to explore in the kitchen and play with ingredients and presentation, but requires them to join in the eating. It reinforces the process of tasting to improve your cooking – cooks simply cannot create without tasting as they go to know if they need more or less of something.
3. Be a food reviewer
This idea can stand alone as an activity or can go along with the ones above. The kids can be almost separate from the foods they might be intimidated by as they are in “reviewer” mode rather than meal time “must get some food in you” atmosphere. There is less pressure and more fun involved.
I have created a little Official food reviewer log printable (2 versions included) to use to make it more official and it doubles as a food record for both them and me to see their changing tastes. You can rate out of 10 or use stickers or any scale you come up with.
- They can re-review foods as they increase their exposures and note that what they rated a 4 back in January now gets a hearty 7 and is more accepted by them.
- They can have a review sheet for 1 item (ie yogurts) and track which flavours or variations they have tried before and keep logging reviews until they find a brand or flavour they like.
- We also do side by side tastings like 3 different flavours of yogurt to compare and decide which they liked best.
You can take suggestions on how they think they would like to try it for next time. We have had luck with freezing foods -especially yogurt into popsicle moulds, applesauce into single serves (becomes like granita / ices as it starts to warm up again and is scraped with a spoon), different prep methods (for carrots we went through sticks, coins, raw vs cooked and finally had success with Alice when it was shredded in thin strips). You can all brainstorm for the next time and make notes. It leaves the door open and instead of “I hate carrots” it becomes “you did not like raw carrots, how about we compare it to cooked next time or with salad dressing or thin pieces” etc.
4. Mystery box shopper
We faithfully watch both Master Chef and Jr Master Chef together and the kids love seeing all the things others are creating and the foods they use. So far they mostly ask to recreate the sweet treats, but we are working on all foods. They love the idea of a mystery box challenge and we have extended this to families by tying it into the family shopping trip. The child (ren) pick an item we’ve never had as a family (hubby and I might have eaten it previously though) and we find a recipe that includes this item. It can be a new protein source, some fresh food or a pantry item that intrigues them.
Sushi making at home is on our list and they have tried dragon fruit and pomegranates happily even if they did not fall in love with them. The aim is to get them to broaden what they try and this puts them in the driver’s seat. They might just pick out something you never would have thought to offer them.
Which of these ideas do you think your kids would love most?
Find your simple,
*We ended up with enough ideas that this will be at least a two-part post and if you have any ideas that have worked for you please email me as I would love to include them. Stay tuned for part 2 soon.
Image credit: pretzel blind tasting by flickr user nickgraywfu