Childrearing

Cooking For The Kid: I Suck At Introducing My Daughter To New Food

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kids vegetablesMy daughter’s favorite food is green beans. If I would just saute some green beans with a little balsamic vinegar every night for dinner, she would be completely happy. Pair it with grilled chicken and some type of roll, we’re talking the girl’s very favorite meal. So guess how often we eat grilled chicken and green beans? A whole lot.

When it comes to breakfast, it’s another simple matter. Plain or vanilla yogurt with berries will always guarantee that she gets the energy she needs for school. I can push it by adding whole wheat toast, though she’ll probably only have a half of a piece. And even then I think she’s placating me. Guess how many quarts of berries this family goes through? Yup, a whole lot.

My daughter knows the difference between healthy foods and junk foods. She’ll eat a slice of pizza, but she won’t be shy in telling you that too much of it hurts your tummy and doesn’t make you healthy. (In fact, she’ll tell lots of random people who have multiple pieces of pizza on their plate when we’re at birthday parties. It’s wonderfully awkward.) She chooses to eat healthy foods, because we’ve learned that her stomach is extremely sensitive to grease and she doesn’t want her belly to hurt. Also, I let her know that healthy food helps you grow into a strong superhero. All in all, it’s pretty great. And I’m kind of proud that my little girl eats healthy, enjoys it, and doesn’t make a big fuss about wanting junk food.

The problem is that her reasonably healthy diet had lulled me into a sense of security. Knowing that she gets nutritious meals makes it really easy to keep cooking the same fruits and vegetables over and over again. In fact, I’m worried that I’ve created an intensely picky eater, who won’t dare venture beyond her standard, healthy fare.

See, when I know that my daughter will eat green beans or zucchini or brussels sprouts, why bother forcing asparagus on her? She just doesn’t like it. If she’s happy with whole wheat pasta, why argue over brown rice that she’ll only take a couple bites of? And if chicken and fish are her proteins of choice, is it really so horrible to stop fixing pork loin?

These are the things I tell myself over and over again. Then I look up and realize that we’re eating the same seven meals every week for a month. I suddenly want to take my daughter to a new Vietnamese restaurant and there’s not a single thing on the menu that I can convince her to eat. Let’s not even talk about the fact that every chain restaurant I’ve ever been to constantly has broccoli as their “seasonal vegetable.” My daughter hates broccoli and doesn’t do baked potatoes.

I’m worried that in my quest to give my daughter healthy food, I stopped paying attention to what was most important. I needed to let her experience all kinds of things. I needed to give her lots of different choices and flavors to experiment with. Instead, I have a child who eats healthy, but who doesn’t get adventurous at all.

I’m going to try to break us out of our shell. I’m going to attempt to take some of her favorite ingredients and add in a few newbies. (This is going to be difficult because I am not a great chef.) I’m going to make meals with a few of her stand-bys and a few new side dishes to try. But I have to admit that when we’ve had a long day or I can’t seem to find more than 30 minutes to cook, I’m probably going to whip up some grilled chicken and green beans. And my daughter will love it. And I’ll feel like that’s good enough.

(Photo: Julio Duenas/Shutterstock)

16 Comments

  1. Lori B.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Eh… being an adventurous eater is overrated! In my opinion, this is not a battle worth fighting. Have a few other options around the house or at meals and let her decide when she wants to be adventurous. She can choose things that look or smell appealing to her. She is eating healthy already so, If I were you, I wouldn’t want to upset the apple cart (or green bean cart) just to get her to try new foods. This is just my opinion, because it seems like you have already taught her how to make smart choices about food.

    • Lindsay Cross

      October 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks Lori! I agree, it’s probably not worth making a huge deal out of it. But I do hope that she can learn to just try things. There’s so much out there!

    • Lori B.

      October 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      I am sorry if that sounded harsh at all! I have a nephew who will only eat peanut butter sandwiches, applesauce, pizza, chicken fingers and french fries, so your story seemed like a good situation to me!LOL About that nephew, his mother also eats like he does. This makes me think that if you eat new foods in front of your daughter, she might jump on the bandwagon easily, on her own terms eventually.

  2. Winwin

    October 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I have a similar situation with fruits at home. My son loves grapes, apples and oranges. I was happy that he loves these fruits so much, it took a while for me to realize we never bought a whole lot of other fruits. Even if we did buy something different, my son wouldn’t try it. We are trying to incorporate fruit salads into his diet so we can mix in some of the newer fruits in with his favorites.

  3. bl

    October 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Why not pick a day you typically have a little more free time and have “New Food Wednesdays” or something. Every Wednesday you try a new item or meal. Then it can be expected and maybe even exciting for her. I’d keep the focus on fun Wednesdays though; otherwise you might get into “But it’s not Wednesday!” battles if you want to eat Chinese food on Friday. 🙂

    • LiteBrite

      October 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      This is an excellent idea and one I may try with my own picky little preschooler. 🙂

  4. Andrea

    October 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I failed miserably at this too. I have the world’s worst/pickiest eaters. In my defense, I blame their father who also won’t touch most veggies or grains unless they are deep fried southern style like okra (i.e. snot from the ground that I REFUSE to cook)

    I was picky too as a kid and didn’t really become a food maven until past college.

  5. To Celebrate Women

    October 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Some kids are just less adventurous when it comes to food. My cousin’s kid will only eat things that are white(?), despite her mom’s best efforts. Chances are she’ll grow out of it.

  6. Carisa Miller

    October 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I’m in your boat. Our 3 year old likes just enough nutritious food that I have all but given up the fight. I’m happy that she seems to like to eat things from the garden and at least the mac & cheese we serve is organic but I don’t want her to be like me…raised almost entirely on peanut butter because I refused to try anything new until my twenties. She has started stealing bites of the baby’s food recently. Maybe that will be my way to increase her variety. Terrific topic. Your site is so incredibly well done, I am using it for some inspiration for my own as I am just getting started. Happy to have found you.

  7. C.J.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:20 am

    We tell our kids they have to try one bite. It has to be a real bite and they have to chew it. We have a drink ready in case they need to wash it down with something. If they don’t like it they don’t have to eat anymore but they have to try it again next time, usually a couple months later. We tell them your taste buds change as you grow and eventually you will like it. Then we make a big deal when they like something new, give high fives and tell them good job for trying a new food until they like it. It seems to work for us. As they get older it takes less tries until they like something. My 10 year old now eats things I won’t even eat. At least your daughter eats healthy. I know a lot of kids that will only eat junk.

  8. Uttpal Khot

    October 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I keep adding twists to the routine stuff. I see the kid taking keen interest to know the recipoe too whe i do so..:)

  9. Allison

    October 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I’d take this as a win. Most kids I know only eat peanut butter and jelly.

  10. Rebecca

    October 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I have a healthy eating daughter who will try anything and a not so healthy son who only wants pb&j’s, chicken nuggets, and sweets. My daughter follows the one bite rule and pretty much likes everything, but my son just adametly refuses to try something he doesn’t like the look of. I think a lot of it is nature, but I’ve noticed my son is more likely to try something new if he’s extremely hungry or if he’s helped cook it, so I’ve been cracking down on heavy afternoon snacks and including him in the kitchen as much as possible

  11. wmdkitty

    October 30, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I’d say don’t push it — just casually introduce new foods, but don’t make a huge deal out of it, and don’t force her to eat. She’ll try new stuff on her own time.

    (I’m 31, and I’m still leery of new foods, but I’m willing to try just about anything once.)

  12. Isadora

    November 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I was a picky eater, too. Fortunately, it faded over the years. I became more welcoming to other, previously “outlandish” meals, though I’m still pickier than most.

    I hated junk food. Most people say they don’t eat it and try to avoid it, but sometimes they can’t “resist”. I didn’t have to resist. I thought hamburgers were the worst thing in the world. I liked homemade pizzas, I could barely withstand store-bought pizzas, etc. I was more a homemaking kind of person, more receptive to my mum’s cooking skills than anyone else’s. And what did I eat? I have not so fond memories of being attributed to “bringing my whole fridge with me” by kids. I normally liked more expensive food. Not that they were upscale or anything similar, but I noticed that my choices were more refined. I normally ate fruit yoghurt which I adored, chocolate milk or just milk. I later had problems pertaining that I didn’t eat that much. I didn’t eat breakfast (big mistake, I know) , and I ate a very modest meal for school brunch (I don’t live in the US, here, our system is more like, you have this 20-minute break, and you either buy some lousy food at that small stand in the hall, like we did, or you fetch some food for yourself the day before). Because my mum worked until six, she couldn’t make food on most days. So my father ordered some meals. I was picky, so I only had three options: roasted chicken and these homemade french fries, spinach pie/cheese pie, and a pizza.

    So, I say you casually introduce new foods to your daughter. Don’t make bad first impressions, to say. My first impression of pizza was this hot, sticky, foul-smelling mess. I eated and eated till’ I finally told my father I couldn’t stand that pizza anymore. And I didn’t eat pizza anymore for 2 years. Don’t force her to eat it. If you’re making something, tell her to take a bite. Tell her that if she doesn’t like it, nobody is forcing her to eat it, just try it. Add some twists to every-day meals, cook some new-er meals. etc. And if she does happen to like something, try to gently “push” it in her meals, but don’t be too excessive. For example, I didn’t like toast that much, and I never eaten it before, until someone persuaded me to try it. And I liked it. But slowly, I refrained from eating toast. Curtly said, I stopped eating toast, it didn’t seem all that great goodness it once was. That’s some advice.

  13. gothicgaelicgirl

    October 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    This is brilliant- my stepdaughters are chalk and cheese- one is adventurous and will try anything at least once, the other nearly has a heart attack if she doesn’t know what it is. The best way I’ve learned to get them to try something new is not to say a word, fix it for myself and sit with them. Approximately 30 seconds after I sit, I get the big doe eyes looking at me. “What’s that?” “It’s nice” I reply, munching with gusto.
    “Can I try some?” “If you like, I don’t mind” (I’ve learned that feigning disinterest goes a long way)

    *child chewing* it’s either “Nope, I don’t like it” or “OOOHHHH CAN YOU MAKE US SOME NEXT TIME????”

    This is how the 7 year old has become hooked on sushi, squid and head on prawns (though I think it’s more to do with yanking their heads off than the taste)

    She and I are the only ones who eat fish in the house and it’s waaayy more satisfying cooking for two than just me. =)

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