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ice cream and fruit sauce

6 ways to get your kids to try new foods

At some meals, the eldest two can be great. But I also hear ‘Yuck!’ and ‘I don’t like that’ regularly, especially when something a little different is served.

Particularly, of course, from my youngest who can be something of a fussy eater.

I try to keep grinning through the exasperation – but honestly, it hurts my jaw.

But – allow me to be a little smug here – this year they’ve discovered a love of squid. All three kids. I know! Let me explain.

How paella-gate happened

One day last year, my kids one by one refused to eat paella made by their granny. I was completely mortified. The meat and prawns weren’t even mixed in FFS – they were on separate plates so the kids could add whatever they wanted.

Essentially, they were turning their noses up at a yellow rice and veg mix.

Paella-gate shocked me. It made me question why my kids had turned into such cautious eaters. And then I realised that they had never seen a plate of paella before.

Perhaps no surprise they turned it down? I’m not so sure – I want my kids to try new things, be a bit adventurous, even if it’s something that looks a bit different. I decided that it was important that they start seeing dishes that push their boundaries much more often.

Here’s my plan:

1. Order a seafood platter in a restaurant

When a seafood platter is on the menu, and it’s not at a crazy price, we have started ordering it ‘for the table’ and divvying it between us as a starter. The kids don’t need to eat a huge portion – just a taste.

And this is how the three kids have discovered a love for salt and pepper deep fried squid, that the eldest two adore mussels, and frankly, you can take your crab cakes back to that kitchen. Whatevs, they tried them.

Turns out kids are happy to try something new if a) they are still getting a pizza afterwards, b) they’re hungry enough and c) you’re tucking into these dishes as a family. The only drawback? There’s never much squid left for me.

2. Eat your way around the world*

When we remember to do this, it works a treat. Here’s how it goes: one quiet weekend, ask a child to pick a country they don’t know much about. Encourage them to flick through cookery books or search on Google till they find a recipe from that country that they’d like to make and eat. The rules: it can’t be a variation of something you all eat regularly, so no sneaking in a variation of sausage and mash; and it has to be a different country each weekend.

We shop for the dish together, one parent helps the child cook it, and everyone gets excited. The kids even sometimes print out the country’s flags.

In this way, we’ve eaten some really interesting dishes, from Venezuelan arepas and French coq au vin to Chinese dumplings via a smattering of Mexican tortillas.

Of course, my youngest is still a work in progress. He helps to cook the meal and then only gives it a few nibbles… But I still see it as a small victory. Before, he would have just pushed the plate away.

3. Eat at restaurants that nudge the kids out of their comfort zone

When the kids choose where we’ll eat out, they go for pizza or a pub that serves roast. So for my birthday, I made everyone go to a Japanese restaurant. It was so far out of the kids’ comfort zone that it might as well have been in outer space. But when they got there, they stopped moaning as it had something that they loved  – you could sit on the floor at sunken tables. Amazeballs, eh? We ordered a few starters for everyone to try, just like with the seafood platter. Their favourite? Tempura and gyoza.

4. Have them grow or pick their own

This summer, the three kids have happily sampled sloe and also damson sauce with their ice cream, thanks to their green-fingered grandparents. They’ve also discovered a huge fondness for blackberries.

5. Serve a new fruit with ice cream

Ties in nicely with point 4.

6. Just give it a try

I tell my reluctant youngest that he just needs to try a few bites. That’s it. Because you can’t tell if you if do or don’t like something until you’ve had a few bites (as all parents know). And if my boy’s in a good mood, and the wind’s in the right direction, he’ll do what I ask. He might hate it. But little does he know that we’ll have it again before long (laughs maniacally). And then the whole dance can begin again.

*Can’t take credit for this idea – we copied it from my sister-in-law

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