Wednesday, September 22, 2010

learning to like new foods: the sitter said it best!

Usually when we have a sitter, I make mac-n-cheese. Last night we also had grapes and carrots and dip. I sat with and ate it too. I love that white Annie's mac-n-cheese...

From the beginning I always mixed peas in our mac-n-cheese. M prefers it this way. So, the pasta was boiled, the peas were nuked. I asked our sitter, Loulou * if she minded if I mixed them together. Here is what she said...

"Sure. I like it that way. At first when I started coming here I thought it was odd, but then I got used to it and now I like it."

I couldn't have said it better myself. She basically described the process of learning to like new foods (food acceptance.) With repeated, pleasant, neutral, non-pressuring exposures, even new foods become familiar. Now, mind you, kids will never say this, or appear this rational. The process looks much more chaotic, with more fits and start. They look at it, they smell it, they watch you eat it, they might lick it or even chew it and spit it out, they might swallow it, they like it and eat lots one day, refuse it the next... Believe it or not, that's all part of the process of what Ellyn Satter calls "sneaking" up on new foods.

Just hang in there! If you serve the foods you want to eat at family meals and sit-down snacks, your kids will grow up to like the foods that you eat as a family.

What weird things do you put into or on classic foods? (I ate corn on the cob with ketchup for the longest time!)


  1. When I was little my mother never really worried about what we ate as long as we had peanut butter every day. She made the peanut butter herself to make certain there was no extra oil or sugar in it as this was before you could get the all natural peanut butter in the stores.

    To this day, I still love peanut butter, bologna and lettuce sandwiches! I also put peanut butter on my hot dogs.

  2. So your question reminds me of a question... what is your "policy" so to speak on kids and condiments? I was talking to a parent today who asked me if it was ok that one of her kids eats mustard at almost every meal. I asked her more about her feeding practices and I don't know that she uses the Division of Responsibility per say (she didn't use the term specifically) but they are a big family (five kids... which for a new pediatrician is an AWESOME family to pick up :) and have sit down family meals every night and serve a variety of food family style. The mom said that, basically no matter what she serves, one of the kids usually asks for mustard if it's not already on the table. On the one hand, the kid will basically eat any protein product (from hot dogs to pork loin to tofu) with mustard so he gets good variety. And since he's one of the older kids, the younger kids emulate him and also eat most anything, but again, with mustard. On the other hand, the mom was concerned that mustard is sorta a crutch and she doesn't want her kids to be picky eaters or have a meltdown if for some reason they can't have mustard. So, long story to get to my question, do you think kids should be able to ask for extra things that they want at meals? I know you are opposed to short-order cooking and over accommodating (and I am too), but what about with something like a condiment?

    I basically told her that I thought the mustard thing was ok (she says the kid even asks for it at breakfast if they are having scrambled eggs), and that I thought over time they would become less dependent on it and that having them eat a solid variety of proteins and vegetables was more important. (I also think it's kinda generally weird that these kids like mustard so much given that small children usually don't like things that are bitter, but goes to show you the amazing power of your older brother liking something.)

  3. We tried a new pasta dish tonight, meatless, lots of garlic and artichoke hearts. Neither my husband or I had ever really had artichokes outside of artichoke dip, but we decided to give it a try. We didn't love the dish for different reasons, but both of us walked away feeling like we'd try artichokes again.

    This might not sound like much, but it was HUGE step for both of us.

  4. Success! Congrats! that's awesome. Feeling comfortable around food, and even new foods is a major part or eating competence. (I love just steamed artichokes and dip the leaves in balsamic. Hubby likes it with butter. M eats it too. I think the peeling and munching and tossing the leaves was kind of intriguing!)
    Keep me posted if you find a way you like artichokes!

  5. Ashley,
    Lucky family that they have you! Sounds like Mom is doing an amazing job having meals with five kids. I always praise that effort and reinforce family meals and structure. As for condiments, I love 'em. I sometimes tell parents that they are like "training wheels." (Lots of parents seem like their kids will only then learn to like foods with the condiments.) Most people eventually tire of even their favorite thing. I used to eat ketchup on rice and corn on the cob, but did grow out of that and eat a great variety. I wonder if mom is making comments, or trying to limit it in some way? Put the bottle on the table and see what happens. I also am curious what she is cooking. Are there sauces and flavor, or is it more of a bland fare? Just wondering, not sure it matters. So, go for it. Put the ketchup bottle on the table, even if they just lick it off the sweet potato fries for awhile. Other dips, like ranch (home-made or store-bought) can be great for veggies too. I would maybe say kids tend to prefer sweet foods, but many little kids actually like strong, pickled flavors. My daughter LOVED cocktail onions as an 18 month old (one snack was cocktail onions and home-made oatmeal cookies...) She also loved shrimp and cocktail sauce (no, we didn't have cocktail hour at home all the time!) My niece at 18 months loved pickled ginger and I hear of lots of kids loving pickles, and even spicey foods. We want to be careful that we don't limit what we offer bc we have ideas of what kids should or shouldn't like. (We can thank Gramma for the cocktail onions. I don't think I would have come up with that one!) I hope that answers your question...

  6. My daughter likes frozen peas stirred into her Mac&Cheese--it helps cool it down.

    Regarding the condiment question, what about butter? My daughter would eat just straight butter if I let her. If I put butter on her vegetables, rice, or pasta, she'll eat the butter, not touch what's underneath, and ask for more. I've solved this by not putting butter on the table, but that means I have to sneak butter onto my vegetables.

  7. Kris,
    I don't know the specifics, but part of the feeding dynamics model is to allow kids to pick and chose from high, medium and low fat options. A high fat option would include butter. It is a very common behavior for little ones to eat butter, sometimes lots of it! It's hard to know if she would eat more at this point because it's been treated differently. Kids will often scrape it off bread, or dip a cracker or scrape it and just eat the butter. Some kids eat it straight, one colleague's child even put it on a boiled egg once! It seems like you as a family enjoy butter on veggies. I wonder how you would feel about letting her have access and being open to seeing what would happen? If it was just there, with no restrictions? She might eat alot for a few meals, but would even tire of that. Small kids need 30-40% of their calories from fat, so try not to worry too much about the fat. M would scrape it off crackers, and sometimes even eat some plain from her plate. That phase passed quickly, and now she uses it much like the rest of us do, that is on veggies or potatoes, though sometimes she uses gravy or ketchup! What do you think? If you're willing to give it a try, please report back!
    Good idea on the frozen peas! Why did I never think of that! We always cook the peas a little and then have to wait for it all to cool down!