Telling the Truth About Food: Picky Eater Updates

Gentle Readers, do you hide vegetables? In the dark of night, do you puree spinach and put it in brownies? I am frequently asked how I get my kids to be brave eaters. If you have kids, you know there’s no getting them to do anything, any more than one can coerce an adult.

Tofu Matchsticks

Tofu Matchsticks

However, the question remains, how do I avoid the “chicken finger pandemic” (a phrase from a NYT article of yore, I can’t remember who coined it)? There are lots of answers to that, but today I’ll answer the sub-question, do I lie to my kids about food? No, I don’t.

My theory, if you hide things in food, you break trust. If I want TPCs Junior to try something, I always ask, do you trust me? If they do, they’ll try it. I don’t want to break that by sneaking something they hate with a big reveal later. They are welcome to hate things, they just have to say why.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

This has become exceptionally important since they became vegetarian. They know I still eat meat. I eat it in front of them on occasion. The Youngest often asks “is this meat?” I always respond, no, I would tell you and give you a choice. What if I didn’t?

Brussels sprouts with pecans, a vegetarian delight.

Brussels sprouts with pecans, a vegetarian delight.

Perhaps I’m exceptionally passionate about this because I’m allergic to shellfish. The last thing I need is someone sneaking a little into a dish just to test it.

Vegan Shrimp from The Loving Hut in Milpitas, CA. Couldn't eat it.

Vegan Shrimp from The Loving Hut in Milpitas, CA. Couldn’t eat it.

I encourage all the parents of picky eaters (and really, we all are at a certain level, food is deeply personal) to treat your eaters with respect and trust. There is no “it’s yucky,”–ask why, how, what could be different. Try again. Be honest about what you don’t like.

Gummi Bears to the Rescue

Gummi Bears to the Rescue

The Juniors know I don’t like gummi things, hazelnuts, and sweet drinks. The Eldest shares my aversion to Nutella, the Youngest eats it with glee. They know I support their eating choices, that food is fuel, that you can stop when you’re full, and that I might challenge them to cook something better if they don’t like what’s on the table.

The beet salad on arugula with goat cheese was a big hit with Team Practical Cook.

The beet salad on arugula with goat cheese was a big hit with Team Practical Cook.

Trust. It starts with owning up to what’s on the table, and soldiering on even when they complain. I’m rewarded by a 7 and 5 year old who can discuss the nuances of goat cheese and the merits of Cuban versus Singaporean food. They don’t even mind waiting a second while I shoot a picture of their plates. 🙂

Thus ends the lecture. What’s your stance on truth in eating? Share your comments below!

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On Friday: Sweet vs Savory.

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