Learn how to spice food for kids in an easy way! Giving them a variety of flavors at an early age is a great way to expand their palate and help them learn to be adventurous eaters. Basic pantry staple spices are a great place to start adding flavor to your kid's meals.
Do your kids suffer from "Bland and Beige" syndrome - only wanting to dine on foods that are bland, overly processed and beige in color?
Yup! I totally get it! We have had days where my kids only want to graze on cheesy crackers, cheese sticks, and other overly processed things with little to no flavor. Kids can be whiny. They can be stubborn. And they can be downright frightful at times. Sometimes its just plain easier to give in and give them a snack, to let them out of eating their veggies, to cook them something else so they won't be hungry. Unfortunately, this quickly snowballs. One time you give in because its been a rough day and before you know it, you have a picky eating monster on your hands that you created. BEEN THERE! I am pretty sure it happens to everyone at sometime or another!
Why Should You Introduce Spices To Your Children:
An important part of teaching your kids to become adventurous eaters and staving off that pesky picky eating is to add spices to your children's food. Why? Well, food with flavor tastes better! I know that seems so super simple and obvious, but sometimes we forget that fact and start serving our kids more bland food. Picking eating generally starts at around 9 months of age - coincidentally this also happens to be the time when we start the introduction of processed foods, and it definitely gets worse around the age of 2-3. Part of this is due to a child's increased independence - I mean, they only get so many things they can control in their little lives, and what actually goes into their mouths is just about all they can pick. And pick they do!
In order to raise children who are adventurous eaters from the start, you need to expand their palate as young and as often as you can. Do this by offering as much variation as possible and by properly flavoring their foods.
When Can You Add Spices To Children's Foods
There is really no reason why you should wait to add spices to your children's foods! Yes, that means you can add it to your baby's food as well! The only thing to remember is that you still need to do the 4 day wait rule when introducing new foods, and that includes spices and herbs as well.
How To Spice Food For Kids
Taste is a skill that is acquired and needs to be taught. Around the world, children are taught what their families eat - kids in Asian cultures are taught to eat sushi, kids in Indian cultures are taught to eat curries, etc.
The best way to teach your children to eat a wide variety of food is to serve a wide variety of food and to model eating it. Learn more about how to raise adventurous eaters here.
Step One: Get them involved
The easiest way to expand a child's palate is to add as much variation as possible to their diet and to get them involved. The more involved in an activity a child is, the more curiosity they will have about a particular food, and the more likely they will want to try it!
Do this by:
- Growing an herb garden together
- Visiting a spice market with your kids
- Have your child help you cook and bake
Step Two: Use familiar foods
Using foods that are already familiar to a child (say - chicken fingers) and then swapping out the seasoning for something that is new. For example, you can swap out traditional frozen chicken fingers with Rosemary and Walnut Crusted Chicken Fingers served with honey mustard dressing for a subtle flavor shift but in a form that is still familiar. Then move a step further and try Panko Crusted Chicken with creole dipping sauce for a totally different flavor that is more heavily flavored and not so subtle. You can even then branch out even more with Coconut Crusted Chicken Strips with a sweet sauce!
Learn how your kids will accept new flavors - Some kids will be willing to accept new foods if it comes with pasta, or in the form of chicken strips. Mine will eat basically anything if it looks like a meatball! Find that sweet spot and run with it!
Step Three: Use half the spice
For more heavily spiced foods (like chicken tikka masala), and recipes that call for flavors your kids might not be familiar with yet, go ahead and use just half the called for spice. Yes, I am giving you permission to not follow the recipe completely and totally (although, don’t just plain substitute, try to stick to it as written!).
Using only half the called for spices will help your child learn to become accustomed to the flavors in an easy way that isn’t quite so up front and forward.
Step Four: Crank it up!
As you continue to expose your family to new flavors of spices, gradually increase the amount the spices that you use. If the first time you make a recipe you only use half the called for spices, maybe the second time use ¾ the called for spices. Then the third or fourth time you can use the full amount!
You also have permission to stay at a certain level if you find that’s where your kids tolerate the flavors best! One of my husband's favorite meals is dak galbi korean street tacos. They are amazing and super fiery. There is no way my kids can handle that level of heat. So I make the sauce with a tiny fraction of the jot gochujang sauce, pull some out for them, and then kick up the heat for Joel and I. It works, they still get the flavor, but their entire insides won't melt.
Make sure you read how to explore the sense of taste with kids!