Raising Adventurous Eaters: Making the Unfamiliar, More Familiar
One of the biggest challenges my clients face is encouraging their kids to become adventurous eaters. It’s a big component of the transition to real food, because taste buds need to be trained to like each new food they encounter. Despite the fact that this process is often challenging (and sometimes exhausting!), it is such an important mission, because raising adventurous eaters is essential to helping your family THRIVE.
One of the many tools I use to encourage my own family to be more adventurous is to make the unfamiliar, more familiar. Here’s an example of how I recently put this tool into practice in my own home:
We received Bok Choy in our CSA basket last week, and my boys had never tried it.
The very sound of it is enough to send young boys running. Not to mention the fact that, once they’ve caught a glimpse of it, they quickly realize it doesn’t look like any of the green vegetables they’ve tried before.
Despite these obvious challenges, I reminded myself that my boys are becoming more and more adventurous (especially when the new item in question is from the farm) and was determined to remain optimistic.
A well-executed plan:
Step One: Remind my boys that this was one of the items in our CSA basket this week. Read this post to learn more about why I love my CSA. Also remind them of all the veggies they’d tried from the farm in the past (that they were adamant they wouldn’t like) and which they’ve ultimately grown to love.
Step Two: Invite them to help me in the kitchen. Getting my kids involved in the process (whether it be shopping for new items, prepping and/or cooking) is another one of my favorite tools. They declined this time, but I always make it a point to ask.
Step Three: Serve the Bok Choy with one of their favorite entrees. In my house, it always helps to start things off on the right track. History has proven that if I tell my family I’m making something they love, they’re much more receptive to anything new I might also send their way.
Step Four: Choose the new recipe carefully. As is the case whenever I get a new item in our basket, I always search for a recipe that sounds good to me and that I think my family will not only try, but also enjoy.
I ended up choosing a recipe that featured a lemon tahini sauce. Why? Because I use tahini regularly in my recipes. It’s a primary ingredient in Our Favorite Hummus, and I add it to many of my sauces for a boost of flavor, protein, and healthy fats. Most importantly, it’s an ingredient that my boys are really familiar with. In fact, they love our hummus, and this recipe contains several of the same ingredients.
You can bet that I made a point to bring that up as I was dishing the Bok Choy onto their plates!
How did this trial go? My husband and 10 year old loved it, and my 8 year old said it was “okay”. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take “okay” over “eeeewwww!!!” any day!
I encourage you to pick a new, unfamiliar item this week and give the concept of making it more familiar a try.
It’s easier than you might think. Just think about the flavors and ingredients your family loves, do a quick search on the internet for recipes that pair those ingredients with the item you’d like them to try, and follow the steps above.
Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if it’s not a hit right away. Just follow-through with the Two Bite Taste Test, praise your kids for being adventurous eaters, and try again the next time.
I’d love to hear what you tried and how it went. Please share in the comments below!
This recipe has been adapted, just a bit, from guest chef Pam Brown in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen. If you haven’t picked up a copy of this cookbook yet, I highly recommend it. I’ve only had it a few months, but I’ve tried several recipes and they’ve already become family favorites. I hope you enjoy the recipe (and the book!) as much as we do!
- 2-3 small heads bok choy
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Chop the bok choy into bite-size pieces and place in salad spinner; rinse and spin to dry
- Place a large saute pan over medium heat; add the oil, onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are translucent
- Add the bok choy and sauté another 5 minutes, or until tender
- In a bowl, combine the tahini, water, vinegar and lemon juice and whisk until creamy (note that Pam recommends whipping the ingredients in a food processor - I have successfully tried both methods, but prefer to mix the ingredients by hand for easier cleanup)
- Add the Lemon Tahini Sauce to the sauté pan, mix thoroughly with the bok choy, and cook until sauce thickens and is warmed through