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The Complete Guide to Raising An Adventurous Eater

Raising children who are an adventurous eater can seem like a challenge, but these 8 simple steps that you can start implementing today will help you raise children who will easily try a variety of foods without the tears!  This complete guide will tell you everything you need to know!

 

how to raise adventurous eaters

 


Why should I Raise an Adventurous Eater?

Once upon a time (ok, this was two years ago) we invited one of my daughter’s preschool friends and her mother over for a lunch playdate. Everything was going swimmingly – the girls played perfectly, the moms had a nice chat, everything was really lovely – until, that is, I made lunch.It was what I would consider a normal lunch for us – ham and cheese roll-ups, a fresh fruit salad, baby carrots with homemade ranch dip, and some cheese flavored crackers in the shape of an animal. My girls tucked in happily, but the little friend immediately threw a temper tantrum – and a giant one.“Oh, sorry”, the mom explained “I should have warned you – she doesn’t eat anything except peanut butter and grape jelly on white bread. And cheese sticks”.Uhh…. Say what?!The mom then went on to explain that literally, this was the only thing the little girl ate – and she ate it every single day for 3 meals a day, and sometimes snacks, too. No fruits. No vegetables. No meat. No variety.
I mean – I totally get it. My middle girl would happily survive on nothing but crackers and mac and cheese if I let her. But that is the point – I don’t let her. We are just as likely to have curry for dinner as chicken nuggets, and while my kids might not love every single thing they are served, they will eat at least some of it anyway. Having children who are adventurous eaters doesn’t necessarily mean you will have kiddos that beg for sushi, beets, and liver – but it does mean your kiddos can enjoy a wide variety of foods, and be open to trying and exploring new things as well!

 

kids eating vegetables

 

How Do I Raise An Adventurous Eater in Eight Simple Steps!

1. Early Exposure

The earlier you can expose your kiddos to a variety of flavors, textures, ingredients, and cuisines, the better off their chances of becoming an adventurous eater and loving a wide variety of foods will be. During pregnancy and breastfeeding is awesome, but incorporating new flavors into your baby and toddler’s diet is key.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, kids do not need overly bland foods! While babies and toddlers do have twice the amount of taste buds as adults do, and are more sensitive to flavors, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy having flavors!

And whether you choose to make your own baby food, feed baby straight from your plate, or buy it from a store, there are so many awesome and flavorful choices! Every food is “kid friendly” if you let it be!

 

2. Serve a Variety 

Giving your kids options of different foods is super important. I try to make sure each meal consists of a variety of different colors of food as well as foods from each “food group”. That way if they decide they don’t like curried chicken, they have a variety of other healthy options that will satisfy their tummies and keep them from going to bed hungry.

[easyazon_link identifier=”B01AVH0K4C” locale=”US” tag=”theginwhi-20″]Divided plates with 3-5 spaces[/easyazon_link] are my favorite meal time accessory, because it helps me remember to serve lots of different things!

 

3. Add Lots of Color

Pretty food looks more appetizing, right? While we know that a sea of brown food might taste good, it doesn’t really look appetizing. People, and especially kids, eat with their eyes first. So having a meal look appetizing is an important step to having your kids want to eat it! I am not telling you to grab the cookie cutters and turn every meal into a creative culinary scene that belongs on Instagram. One way I love to add more color to a meal is to add fruit into the meal.

4. Keep Trying

Did you know your taste buds are replaced about every two weeks, and they are continually changing?! Just because something doesn’t go over well today doesn’t mean it will forever be a hated food. Keep trying!

Try new ways of preparing food (baked, grilled, poached, etc) and with different herbs and other ingredients to change the flavor and how it is presented. For the longest time I thought asparagus was utterly disgusting—because I had only ever had it simmered in water until it was mushy and tasted like grass. Then I had it grilled, and I discovered I LOVE it! To learn more about adding spices and herbs to your family’s meals, read this post.  

 

How to raise adventurous eaters

 

5. Don’t Impose Expectations

This one is soooo hard because the whole family needs to be on board. If you want your 4-year-old to eat broccoli, then Daddy (or someone else) can’t go on and on about how much they dislike broccoli. Those expectations go a long way.

Phrases like “I don’t think you will like this” or “You are going to LOVE this” set the stage for failure and mistrust. Allowing a child to make their own discoveries is important.

Focus on the health qualities of the food, how you used a new ingredient, where it comes from, or how it is made. Then, instead of your little sponge suddenly regurgitating someone else’s opinion about the food, they are more likely to feel curious and want to try it.

 

6. They Eat What You Eat

For the love of Pete, please stop being a short order chef!

Your job is NOT to make 4 different meals that cater exactly to everyone’s specific taste preferences so that everything is rainbows and sunshine. Your job is to nourish your family with a dinner you have lovingly prepared for them. It is then their responsibility to decide if they are going to eat it (whether or not they like it) or be hungry.

One Meal. No Alternatives.

I promise they won’t shrivel up and die because they don’t eat 100% of the food on their plate. Pinky Swear. And more often than not, they will eat. Have your family help you create your your meal plan (learn more about making meal planning easy here) so they have some input and get excited about what you are eating!

 

veggies and kids

 

7. Ease Up

I know. It’s really easy to get uptight with dinner time rules. But the more rules you try to enforce, and the more micromanaging you do during dinner time (‘Take another bite’, ‘eat some chicken’, ‘don’t use so much ketchup’), the less enjoyable meal time becomes.

Think about it – do you like it when your boss or significant other stands over your shoulder and tells you exactly what to do during each and every movement you make? I’m going to guess no. And I’m going to guess it actually makes you really irritable, too.

Well, guess what? Your kid feels the same way. And everyone else at the table.

Don’t be a Dinner Dictator!

Relax and give your child the freedom to experience their dinner at their own pace while you talk about your days, laugh, and have a good time. Dinner can turn from feeling like a chore to a valued part of your day.

That’s not to say there aren’t rules – because obviously everyone needs to sit on their bottom and not stab their sibling with their fork or fling spaghetti on the ceiling. But turning down the dictoratorship will make a phenomenal impact on your meal time atmosphere.

 

8. No Bribery

There are totally times where bribery works. And I’m not going to be one of those parents who tells you to never bribe your kid – that is totally your decision. But the dinner table is one of those places where I hope you would use is sparingly.

By saying “I will give you an amazing dessert if you eat your dinner!” what you are actually teaching your kids is that the dinner you are serving is icky, gross, gag-worthy, and the only way they can choke it down is the thought of having a cookie at the end.

Instead try offering up something to dip that chicken into, taking family bites (Our favorite is “Everyone take a bite of chicken! Ready? 1 -2 -3!” Peer pressure is awesome…).

 

9. Get Them Involved

One of the absolute best things you can do on your journey to raise adventurous eaters is to get your kids involved in their meals. Give them some ownership of what they eat, and you will be astounded by what they do with it.

Growing a garden with your kids is one of my favorite ways to do this, but also having them help you pick out new recipes to try, picking out the produce at the grocery store, and assisting you in preparing dinner will not only give them a sense of pride in helping you, but it will also help foster responsibility, curiosity, and enjoyment in what they are doing.

 

What Tools Do I Need To Raise An Adventurous Eater?

In reality – nothing!

You can raise an adventurous eater with the things you already have in your cabinets and drawers.

However, if you want to get really serious about it, I do have some recommendations!

 

Tools For Raising Adventurous Eaters

This post contains affiliate links. If you would like more information on this you can read more on my Disclosure Page. Thank you so much for supporting me and my blog!

  • Kid-Friendly Chopsticks (affiliate link) – We have these and LOVE them! Not only are they super cute, but they are also dishwasher safe AND you can take them apart easily to clean, or when you no longer need the “kid” part. These are what my girls have learned to use chopsticks with and they use them better than most adults do!
  • Real Dishes – Totally my personal opinion, but I think that for kids to feel like they are mature enough to eat real food, they need to have real dishes. Or at least dishes that aren’t in shaped like a lion and have sparkle kitties all over them. The dishes shouldn’t be distracting, because the point is the food, right? Anyway. We have two sets we love – These glass dishes (YES, I totally said GLASS! And no, we haven’t lost a single one) by Duralex, and these RePlay recycled plastic sets which are better for babies and younger toddlers.
  • Kid Safe Cooking Utensils are great for getting your kids in the kitchen without feeling like they might cut off their entire hand. No one wants that.

 

 

 

Eating should be an adventure – try new things, and have fun!

 

 

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Raising children who are adventurous eaters can seem like a challenge, but these 8 simple steps that you can start implementing today will help you raise children who will easily try a variety of foods without the tears! 

14 Comments

  • Reply
    Cindy Gordon
    June 14, 2018 at 1:49 AM

    So many great tips. I think giving variety and not giving up is very important! I am dealing with the huge swing in summer food consumption now with the kids home!

  • Reply
    Danielle Howard
    June 14, 2018 at 2:23 AM

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    June 14, 2018 at 5:45 AM

    This is great! We did baby led weaning and fed our son lots of the same foods we were eating. I think this has helped him be more open to trying new flavors now that he’s older.

  • Reply
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    June 14, 2018 at 9:36 AM

    These are some fantastic tips. I try to make sure my kids get variety and try everything at least a few times. This is a very handy guide for those struggling to get their children to be a little more adventurous with their food.

  • Reply
    theresa
    June 14, 2018 at 2:26 PM

    sharing with a friend

  • Reply
    Catherine Brown
    June 14, 2018 at 7:18 PM

    These are ALL such great tips! Having raised 3 adventurous eater, I can say I did all of these things and embraced the ebbs and flows of childhood eating patterns. Thanks for posting on this important topic!

  • Reply
    Sondria Harp
    June 15, 2018 at 2:03 AM

    These are great. Both of my kids are super picky eaters. My biggest take away from all of this is not to be a dictator at dinner. Which is super hard for us. We’re just so used to bribing, arguing, and negotiating.

  • Reply
    Heather
    June 15, 2018 at 8:11 AM

    Love these tips on adventurous eating! I can’t wait to try these methods when I have children 🙂

  • Reply
    April
    June 15, 2018 at 11:47 AM

    I’ve tried so many things to get my so picky kids to be more adventurous. I am going to save this article. You’ve made so great points. I am still hoping they will become more open to trying different foods out.

  • Reply
    mydeliciousmeals
    June 15, 2018 at 2:15 PM

    It’s always difficult to get my older child to try new foods, I’ll keep your tips in mind. But you are right, “They Eat What You Eat” and all the family should eat the same food, no separate cooking for kids.

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Debono
    June 15, 2018 at 2:28 PM

    My 4 kids are grown up now but I totally agree with all your tips. Luckily for me mine weren’t too fussy (maybe because they’re all boys with big appetites!) but they weren’t keen on anything green. I just kept putting it on the table and now they love salads and veggies.

  • Reply
    Nicole Hood
    June 16, 2018 at 10:49 PM

    I love that my kids are adventurous eaters like my husband and I . I started them young and I always say just try everything once!

  • Reply
    Chef Mireille
    June 18, 2018 at 6:10 AM

    I’ve worked as a chef at a nursery school and also taught cooking classes for every age group – and you have great suggestions here that I can vouch for as I’ve used in my work

  • Reply
    Mayuri Patel
    June 19, 2018 at 9:49 AM

    I totally agree with you that the sooner we introduce a variety of food to the kids the better. When my kids were growing up, there were no separate meals made for them. They ate what everyone else ate. I can’t remember my kids throwing a tantrum for certain types of food. Your article is so useful and informative. I’m going to direct young mothers who think their kids will shrivel up if they miss one meal.

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