I was going to title this blog how to get your kids to eat everything. But there's no truth to that. If your child tries Wasabi, chances are he or she is not going to polish off the bowl.
"How do I get my child to try new foods" is something many people I know have asked me. Whether it's nature or nurture, I can't be 100% sure, but my kid will try just about anything. If it isn't nurture, she was a raccoon in another life. From sushi to escargot (snails) to thai, she will give it a go. A new food we tried together was bugs. Cricket chocolate chip cookies at the Miami Museum of Science. They were as gross as you'd think but we tried them. And got an "I ate a bug" sticker. We've got our credentials for the apocalypse.
I believe kids should try new foods without 1) being tricked into it. No pB&j sandwiches made with a concealed dab of peas sort of a thing. 2) lied to.
I did have to lie to my husband. When we were dating, I told him that a tuna steak was really steak and that's the reason he tried it. I couldn't very well date someone who wouldn't eat at sushi restaurants, but I digress.
Seven good shots at getting a kid to try new foods:
1. Start Early. From the youngest age, I made no distinction between typical American food like French fries and chicken nuggets and exotic (for anywhere but Miami) foods like arroz con pollo. I extended this to Chinese, Italian, Israeli and more. This means you need to eat at many different places, bring home lots of different take outs, and/or expand your ingredients.
2. Study the Country. I love Japan and all things Japanese. I show my kid Japanese things and teach her Japanese words. We go online and see what Japanese children are like, where they do to school, how they dress and...wait for it...what they eat. When she sees the children there eat sushi like we eat sandwiches. She gets curious.
3. Discovery. I do believe some kids have taste buds tuned in to the nugget and fry channel, regardless of what their parents have tried to introduce. This needs a conversation. Ask your child what they like about the nuggets. If it's the fried, try other fried foods like pickles. If it's french fries try the truffle kind or the sweet potato or the hundreds of others out there. Or you can attempt to introduce different tastes in sauces. When you find a taste they like, build on it. Or even a color/ look of a food. Go from red apples to green apples to pears. From rice to couscous to quinoa. Slow and steady wins this race.
4. Make them laugh. My child loves broccoli because she loves to cut their "hair". "Hello, I am Greenie and I have a party to attend. I need a party haircut, " i'd say as I held up the broccoli. She'd cut their hair. Lots of broccoli were invited to that party. Mommy ate a lot of broccoli stalks but it was well worth it. It's a step up from the "Open your mouth for the airplane" concept.
5. Classic Conditioning. Buy something new that they recognize, like a cupcake from a new bakery. Your child will likely want to try it. Tell them, "no, you know how they hate to try new foods." Try your cupcake as your child watches. If you see the puppy dog eyes, you know you picked the right food. Say "Oh, OK, Try this new food. See if you like it. Do you like this new food?" Emphasize new food and repeat this twice more with other yummy, child friendly foods over a period of a few days. Really start with yummy things so they believe everything you say this of is going to be yummy. On the fourth time, your goal is to get them to eat a food you really want them to eat. Preface it with "I have another yummy new food, give it a try." Do not ask your child if they want to try a new food. Just say "here try this new food, you liked the others, remember." Do not spread out the yummy new foods too far or your child will forget.
6. Reverse psychology. Say to your child "you're not going to like this so I am not going to give you any" and if your child is anything like mine, she will want it immediately. "
7. Cook the food. Make a Chinese dish at home with your child. Start by letting them help you pick what dish you'll make together. Kids always like to eat what they helped make. Then a week or two later say "Remember the Lo Mein" we made together? Let's go try it at the Chinese restaurant. While there attempt to introduce other basic child-friendly foods like Spring rolls.