6 tips for expanding your child’s palate
In the second installment of our family-friendly eating guide, Jordana touches on how to expand your child’s palate. This is a topic that is asked by parents everywhere, and while it may seem like a daunting task, Jordana has some simple fixes to ensure the journey is smooth sailing for both you and your little one.
How will I expand my child’s palate? The answer seems simple, but the practice is difficult.
What I see happening all too often – and mostly down to necessity, expense and a lack of time – is that we stop offering a particular food to our children when they are point-blank refusing to eat it. We need to remember that eating is a skill our children need to learn – both on a physical and mental level.
Once they reach 18 months up until they are 3 years of age, they will go through the typical fussy eating stage. It is at this point that we need to continue to offer food, even if it is refused. If we don’t, our children will start to lose their ability to process these foods.
If you are currently facing difficulties with children adjusting to new flavours who fall within this age group, here are some things to consider when trying to expand their palate:
Keep new foods present
In essence, if the brain does not use a pathway, it will lose that pathway. When we re-expose our children to these foods later, it is as if they have never seen these foods before and we start the whole process again. Keeping foods present and available so they are always being seen, smelt, maybe even touched will keep the pathways present.
Don’t pressure children to “try” foods
Another thing to consider is that we don’t pressure our children to “try” foods. We can start to distinguish between foods that have been learned about and those that they are still learning about. We can use language such as “you don’t have to eat it, yet.” The “yet” is very important, as this implies that there will be a time when they will be required to eat it. If we leave it off entirely, we essentially close the door to that food, and it becomes a food that they never have to learn about.
Include them in the cooking process
Everyone bakes with their children, but very few of us will cook with our children. Hello Chef meals are great for involving the little ones, and many recipes have steps that are easy for a child to do with parent supervision. Giving a child this sense of responsibility will encourage them to want to try the food.
If you’re popping out to pick up some fresh fruit or vegetables, encourage your little one to come along and ask them to select a new food item each week. It may be something that even you haven’t tried before (which is the beauty of the UAE). Take it home and encourage the whole family to do a taste test, rather than all the focus being on the child who is considered “fussy.”
Keep up the momentum!
If your child surprises you and eats something new, make sure you offer it to them again within a few days. If we leave it for too long, we have missed an opportunity.
Maintain a consistency with family eating
Family eating is key when expanding a child’s palate. This helps keep the exposure of new flavours present for our little ones, and at the same time makes the food appear safe for them. When we eat differently from our children, a large distinction starts to grow between “kids” food and “grown up food,” which is what we want to avoid. Instead of cooking multiple meals, focus on offering the same foods to everyone, but always providing one “preferred food” of your child’s.
Stay tuned for more family-friendly eating tips from Jordana in the coming weeks.