Soggy spinach? Stringy asparagus? Mealy apples? Ew!
According to science, our taste bids dull as we age, so it’s no wonder that tiny tongues and younger noses may have heightened responses to textures, flavors, and smells.
Classifying kids as “picky eaters” is not a helpful way to relate with their food experience, which may differ from an adult’s. At the Y, we recommend replacing “picky” with positive and encouraging language that inspires youth to “take polite bites”, “try again later” and consider trying food in different formats. For example, broccoli flavor varies depending on how it’s prepared (raw with dipping sauce, steamed, roasted, sauteed) and the texture of a sliced avocado (on toast and salad) is different than a smashed one (like guacamole).
Use these tips to reintroduce kids to the yummy side of nutrition and watch their “ew”-face disappear.
- Give different fruits and vegetables fun names. Giving a more fun name to a food can give it a second chance against a bad experience or negative review. Instead of brussel sprouts, try muscle sprouts.
- Let kids develop the menu. When children feel ownership of a project (like a meal), they are more likely to support its success. When grouped with siblings or friends, they are also more likely to try something that others are trying as well. When children feel ownership of a project (like a meal), they are more likely to support its success. When grouped with siblings or friends, they are also more likely to try something that others are trying as well.
- Involve children in the prep process. Even better, start a garden so kids can plant, harvest and eat the foods they helped grow. Offer healthy options for adding flavors (like Greek yogurt dipping sauce or fresh cracked pepper) so they can personalize their snack.
- Make fruits and vegetables part of a lesson. Create a polite bite “passport” to learn about produce from around the world and share fun facts about the produce being offered. A sticker or stamp can be awarded for every new food explored!
- Focus on presentation. If a fruit or vegetable looks unappealing, children may hesitate to give it another try. Some foods might be gentler on the eyes, so start there. Offer a baked sweet potato instead of a smashed turnip, for example.
- Model the behavior you want kids to imitate. Children look up to adults so it’s important to model good food behaviors. Share why you like a particular fruit or vegetable and name some favorites. If there is a particular vegetable or fruit you don’t like, make a habit in front of children to say that “it wasn’t my favorite but I would like to try again in a different format”. This will encourage open-minded thinking around new flavors.