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How to Teach Kids to Love International Food

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This Beginner’s Guide to Global Cuisine is perfect for families who want to start eating a more varied diet but are not sure where to start. With easy steps and great ideas, this guide will help your teach your Kids to love International Food starting today!

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Do you dream of including Japanese, Turkish, and Indian recipes in your weeknight dinner rotation but you are worried about having to also make mac and cheese for your kids? Don’t become a short order chef – I am here to help!

Raising kids who are open trying new foods is important, for two reasons.

When I was little I would sometimes be invited to my friend’s houses for dinner. I remember my mom telling me to be polite, to eat whatever I was served no matter what, and to thank the parents for the meal. I didn’t always like what I was served, but you can bet I ate it without a single complaint.

Now that my girls are old enough to start eating with their friends, I expect the same level of politeness from them. It doesn’t matter what is being served – you eat it! Because we live in global communities, I think it is important to show kids that different families eat different things – and that’s ok!

Trying new restaurants is a favorite activity of a lot of families, and knowing that you don’t have to worry about what the kids menu might entail opens up a whole new world of experiences. (Actually, the topic of kids menu choices is kind of my soap box issue, so I am going to refrain from going off on a huge tangent here, but basically – when we give our kids more choices, we open up a world of new opportunities for them and for us).

bulgogi beef in bowl with toppings

How to Get Your Kids to Eat What You Eat

When it comes to raising adventurous eaters, being open to trying food from all around the world is key. Its a small world after all (sorry, couldn’t help myself there…) and exposure to different cultures is a great way to get to know the world we live in.

We all aren’t able to travel the world with our kids (although, oh my gosh, wouldn’t that be so much fun?!). However, we can expose our children to the sights, smells, and tastes of different cultures right from the comforts of our home through books, movies and – yeah, food!

Your travels through life might not always take you to a place where there is a a kids menu available. And chances are that at some point in your child’s life they will be invited to eat dinner at someone’s house whose idea of dinner is different than theirs. Even if you never leave the state you were born in, being able to explore the world around us is important.

Whether you want to cook your own international dishes, or travel to the best restaurants your city has to offer, taking your child along on your culinary journeys is a fantastic way to expose them to new cultures and become curious adventurers! Don’t limit your explorations by worrying about what kids menu items are available!


bowl of Costa Rican Gallo Pinto beside Skillet

Seven Tips to Introduce Global Cuisine

When it comes to expanding your child’s palate, baby steps are key! Use these seven easy steps to help your kids to love international food.

  1. Serve Food in Familiar Forms. Adding new flavors and ingredients seems less intimidating when its served in a form that is familiar and already loved – like meatballs, tacos, skewered on sticks, etc.
  2. Make Comparisons. Compare new dishes to old favorites. For instance, Chicken satay are like grilled treadless chicken fingers with a peanut butter dipping sauce.
  3. Serve Sauces On the Side. This works particularly well when serving curries and really saucy dishes. Spoon out the main ingredients (like chunks of chicken) and then add a small cup of the sauce on the side for dipping. Dipping sauces in general always go over well with kids, so think about what accompaniment you could serve on the side.
  4. Keep Sides Simple. When serving a brand new dish, introducing new flavors, or trying a new international food, try to keep the side dishes simple and ones that you know your children will already eat. Things like rice, naan, simple vegetables, etc are great choices. Think about what you know your child will eat and will be a safe way for them to fill their bellies in case they decide they aren’t a big fan of the main dish.
  5. Serve Toppings Separately. By choosing which toppings go on their own dishes, a child will have more ownership in their meal – meaning they are more likely to try and actually enjoy it! Serve a variety of different toppings  in different shapes and colors “family style” on the table and allow each family member to build their own plate.
  6. Tone Down the Flavors. Just because your children are, you know, children, doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a variety of flavors. When trying something new or something that might be a bit on the heavily flavored or spicy hot, err on the side of caution and only use up to half the amount of seasoning called for. Adults can always add more flavors and hot sauce to their own plates, but once you add it to a dish you can’t take it away. When introducing new flavors, start small and work your way up.
  7. Make it Bite Sized. Trying new foods is a lot less intense feeling when you aren’t faced with a giant motzah ball the size of New York City (total imagined exaggeration there, but you get my point). Think about how you can make smaller pieces from the get go that seem less-intensive. Mini meatballs, bite sized pieces,
graphic for dinner conversation cards
two bowls of chicken tikka masala with rice. Forks and naan on the table beside the bowls.

Easy Ways to Teach Kids to Become World Food Explorers

Introducing flavors and foods from a different culture can seem intimidating when faced with feeding tiny critiques. But it doesn’t have to feel that way! Having your child be interested in dinner is the Number One way to get them curious about trying new foods. Here are some way and fun ways that you can explore new foods:

  • Start with your background. Where does your family come from? Explore your own heritage by making recipes that you have familial ties to.
  • Host a Potluck and ask friends to all bring a dish that comes from their heritage.
  • Visit the Library and check out fun picture books and movies from different cultures. There are a lot that have recipes included in the back! Just ask your librarian for help.
  • Play “spin the globe”.  A game similar to “pin the table on the donkey” but with a map of the world is also fun.

Extra Tip: Teach your children to say “Thank You” in other languages. Not only does this demonstrate the importance of being polite, but restaurant wait staff LOOOOVE this. Often they bring extra special little treats for the little ones, which in turn cements the idea that visiting new restaurants is super fun.

Curious about the Number Two way to get kids interested in their food? The secret lies with getting them involved in the kitchen.
graphic image with images of foodie family passport kits and the words "explore a world of food with your kids" and a button that says "learn more"

Kid-Friendly Resources to Help Your Children Become World Food Explorers

    • Circle Round is a podcast where they share cultural folktales from around the world. It’s an engaging way to introduce children to new accents and new stories while also possible helping them see the similarities they share with children from around the world.
  • BOOKS:
    • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne– A fun classic tale that takes you on an adventure that should create a spark of excitement for exploring. This version is a Young Readers version, so its a retelling with lovely illustrations and is easy to read. I also love this Baby Lit version!
    • Give Your Child the World– Featuring a carefully curated reading treasury of the best children’s literature for each area of the globe, as well as practical parenting suggestions and inspiration, Give Your Child the World helps moms and dads raise insightful, compassionate kids who fall in love with the world and are prepared to change it for good.
    • Children Just Like Me– A favorite in classrooms, libraries, and homes, Children Just Like Me is a comprehensive view of international cultures, exploring diverse backgrounds from Argentina to New Zealand to China to Israel. With this brand new edition, children will learn about their peers around the world through engaging photographs and understandable text laid out in DK’s distinctive style.
    • Magic Tree House and the Magic Tree House Fact Checkers– Follow Jack and Annie on adventures throughout the world and time. These short chapter books are a great (and brief) introduction to geography and history of different regions. They are also readily available at most libraries and it is easy to pick and choose which titles are interesting.
    • Let’s Eat- What Children Eat Around the World– How could I not include a book about food? More than just what they eat, learn how it’s grown, bought, and prepared.
    • National Geographic Kid’s Beginner’s World Atlas– It can be hard for children to understand where countries are and how they relate to one another. This is a bright and colorful hands on way for children to explore on their own terms.
      • Google Earth is also a good tool and a fun more interactive way for children to see the world from above.
    • Around the World In 80 Days– Reading a book and then watching the movie is a great way to help reinforce a story to children.
    • Somebody Feed Phil– Phil travles to various exotic locations trying many different local dishes and visiting various unique locations within the country.
    • The Who Was? Show– Although not about a specific country or culture, this show highlights famous people from around the world.
    • Human Planet– Another wonderful show showcasing the amazing cultures from around the world. A note from a friend, there is some cultural nudity so if that would bother you plan accordingly.
    • Super Wings– Airplanes deliver supplies to children around the world and help solve problems. Each episode features a little bit about that area and they learn a new word in the language

Talkbox.Mom has books for many different languages full of phrases that families actually used. Designed to be similar to how children learn a language by hearing and repeating, these books come with audio done by native speakers.

Some of the benefits of learning a new language includes children being more curious about the world around them and more willing to ask questions. They also can develop more empathy and understanding for others.

Kid Friendly Global Cuisine Resource Guides:

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