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I am trying to find new ways to cook interesting meals for picky kids who hate vegetables. I am new to cooking but am really enjoying it. I am looking into a high quality set of copper pieces. Any advice would be appreciated. 

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Welcome to eG!

 

Do they also hate raw vegetables?


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

-The mosque is too far from home, so let's do this / Let's make a weeping child laugh.

    Nida Fazli, poet, 1938-2016 (translated, from the Urdu, by Anu Garg, wordsmith.org)

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Sadly, yes. I can blend them into things like muffins or pancakes. But If I try to blend them into sauces they know and won’t eat it. 

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What age are they and what do they like eating?

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I think that children's taste buds are undeveloped so they have a preference towards the bland. Like all things in children their senses are undeveloped. Taste & texture are new to them.

The VERY first thing children learn is how to manipulate their parents. I can understand the advantages from evolutionary point of view (they can't actually kill their rival siblings like some birds for instance), but they can compete quite successfully to out manipulate their parents or other adults. Some never get over this phase and it continues into adulthood.

My grandchildren absolutely hate pumpkin. But if they don't know or realize they are eating pumpkin, they make no fuss, which indicates their dislike is probably psychological. I am pretty certain that a few of our children's dislikes are the result of a bad experience with a particular food (they may have been in a bad mood and decided to test their parents by refusal) and the learned behavior just stuck. Remember their whole evolutionary imperative of their existence is to learn.

Having said that, once they have those behaviors is fairly hard to cure them.

They will like salty things. They will like sweet things (to us they sweet taste that children like may well be cloyingly sweet to us). They want easy. Cutting things is a skill they may not have (they do feel self conscious when they can't do things their parents think they should). They crave fats but not the look of it (its why children love french fries)

Being really slow eaters is about manipulation not taste or hunger, its a learned behavior.

So...enough with the profiling....

Find what vegetables they will eat. But make sure they are fresh and RIPE. Corn on the cob (make sure its ripe!) is good because they get to pick it up in their fingers and make a mess. They may not like it smothered in butter but try it with maple syrup.

Same with carrots, make sure they are cooked properly. See if they will eat them raw, if not make sure you cook them soft. Cook peas with mint. Give the children mint sweets earlier in the day. (see manipulation can work both ways....)

Pasta is always good, particularly if you make 2 types of sauce, spicy for you and mild for them (don't be surprised if they suddenly start to like spicy...they want to be like adults).

Same with lasagna. BUT don't tell them what you are having, it just gives them a chance to object and lock in their choices without trying it!

 

Cover the vegetables with a sauce they like, remember the sauce needs to tend towards bland or they will reject it! Any sauce that is new and different is likely to be rejected outright (not for taste, it wont get past the double negative "new" & "different") You will only get one chance at presenting a new sauce!

 

 

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One thing i forgot when cooking for kids.

If you make a sauce for vegetables etc, serve it on the adults only and make it a point of difference. The kids may well resent it and try it out of spite. Even if they are unsure whether they like it their pride will not let them reject it. (I forgot how satisfying manipulating children can be)😃

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I think we are headed into psych territory. I disagree about the kids being intentionally manipulative. Remember that fruit is an option. Vary the types and colors and you get a broad nutritional profile.  My nephew in med school is now n adventurouse eater but had a few "white only/not foods touching years. He naturally changed without manipulation or pushing. 

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Cheese sauce, peanut sauce, gravy , will cover a multitude of veg. 

 

Try poutine with fries and...roasted cauliflower. 

 

Avoid peas and lima beans and string beans. Vile veg that can’t be hidden under a sauce. 

 

The old standby of sweet stuff eg on yams , I think is a trap. They need to learn to love savory stuff. 

 

And the eternal “ you have to eat a forkful” eventually turns the tongue. 

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Ah, the white food years! Spaghetti with butter. Potatoes with white cheddar. Pick your battles; food is a terrible one. Offer variety and new things and offer choices. Don't push or bargain. If they don't want to eat something that's their right. It doesn't mean you will make them another meal. I've never seen meals that result in anxiety do anyone any good. When it is clear they will eat Kraft mac and cheese but not your homemade, you have no where to go but up. Being picky about food seems to be a natural part of evolution. Four year olds who like broccoli may need watching! 

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Thank you everyone for your responses. I make one meal - if they don’t eat it I don’t get mad. But they have to try one mouthful. Then later when they say they are hungry I give them back their food plate. I should add my 4 year old is actually pretty adventurous. I find if we go to the store and I let him do the shopping he eats salad, salmon, shrimp, cauliflower. So I try and respect when he says he hates peppers because I can get him to eat other things. But lately, he wants more and more sweets. So I put it on the side of his plate and he will then eat his food to get dessert. I wonder if that’s setting some bad example. My 1 year old is much pickier then my 4 year old. Hates vegetables and loves starch. My oldest was much better at this age of eating things like spinach. But I am also not a great cook. And in fairness, he will eat more of that stuff in restaurants. Hence why I joined here. Looking for ways to improve my cooking. I should note - I do not have a sense of smell. So I have to go a lot by look and sometimes things are over or under done. 

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Yeah, being anosmic makes it even more challenging. It's not impossible to work around that kind of issue, though: a culinary classmate of mine, who was an observant Jew, knocked a number of pork and/or shellfish dishes out of the park despite not being able to taste them.

 

When my kids were young I also had the "you gotta have one bite before you tell me you don't like it" rule, on the basis that until they actually had some in their mouth they had no grounds for claiming to dislike it. Occasionally that meant they'd discover they genuinely liked something, but not often. I also had the complication that I sometimes had to hide what I was doing from my wife as well ("Hey, what did you just put in that sauce? I'm not eating that!").

 

With one current granddaughter (also 4) we've found a modicum of success by reminding her that every single thing she does like was once something she'd never tried, and that if she doesn't try stuff she'll never know what her next favorite would be (currently beans on toast, of all things). Your younger one is still too little for that to work, unfortunately, but the older one might be susceptible to it.

 

My kids were not too terribly finicky overall, in retrospect (probably because for long stretches were were too damned broke for them to have alternatives). I found that most vegetables would go down if they were paired with enough cheesy sauce, or - even better - given a cheesy sauce *and* wrapped in pastry and baked up. They loved little pies with stuff in 'em...kind of an ad hoc empanada, I suppose.

 

I think most of the advice you'll see falls into two camps. One is the "get some decent nutrition into them by hook or crook" camp, which certainly has some merit. My GF as a child was crazy-picky, and basically lived on sweets for a few years until she became seriously ill. She eventually started eating real food because the alternative was getting iron shots (she'd become seriously anemic) and iron shots just SUCK. Obviously, that's an extreme case.

The other camp takes the longer view, and attempts to instill good habits and an attitude of curiosity and experimentation. Ultimately I think that's the ideal for most parents, though of course it's not easy in practice. Anything that can pique their interest in food would certainly work in your favor (if you don't already own a copy of Ratatouille, buy one). :)

I've known a few parents whose kids became more open to trying foods because of cooking shows, and/or YouTube videos of kids doing things with food. Gardening helps, too, if you have the space for it. As one farmer acquaintance explained it to me, "Sending them out back and telling them to decide which color of chard we're having for dinner tonight pretty much put an end to the whole question of *whether* they were going to eat chard." I've seen this at play with the same little granddaughter, who loves going into my garden and choosing things.

 

"It's a thin edge of the wedge" mentality...once you've successfully gotten them to eat one of something, you can leverage that into broader acceptance. The granddaughter decided early on that she liked kale, so we were able to get her to try most other greens by telling her they were like kale. She took to broccoli, so we introduced cauliflower to her as "white broccoli" and then explained, after she'd decided she liked it, that it had its own name. It would work in reverse, too, if a kid like cauliflower you could introduce broccoli as "green cauliflower." For that matter there *is* green cauliflower - well, "broccoflower" - and you could use that as a transition between them.

My greatest moment in that area came with another granddaughter. She already liked pasta and loved pickles (of course) so when she saw me putting sauerkraut on a hot dog one day, and asked what it was, I unthinkingly blurted "pickle noodles." She was fascinated by the idea, and ate a startlingly large portion. That was almost 4 years ago now, and her mom mentioned in a recent phone call that she still occasionally asks for sauerkraut with her supper.

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"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

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I have to say, I appreciate the long thought out responses. They come as a surprise as I wasn’t really sure what to expect here. Thank you very much. 

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Well, @Attorneymrs I feel for you - never an easy thing feeding the kiddos - we need to pick our battles for sure, but at the same time, we want to make sure they’re healthy enough enough to fight them! 😉 

 

Like you’ve already said, you’ve gotten a lot of great advice here - so here’s my suggestion - kids will often follow what the older sibling will do - you said the 4yr old will often eat veggies when eating out ... so you fear it may be the way you’re cooking them ... look up a couple of “copycat” recipes and give them a go and see how it turns out ! You don’t have much to lose 🙂 Hopefully when the 1yr old sees the 4yr old eating the veggies he will follow suit. 

 

Often - if you ask a kid - You are this at so and so - what’s wrong with Moms? - they are so brutally honest (yours is too crunchy!) ... and maybe invite him into the kitchen (for age appropriate helping) for next time - and make it ... 

 

Good luck - I mean that - keep us updated on your endeavors and don’t be afraid to ask for help - as you’ve seen the people here are so very helpful. 

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My children were not tremendously picky, but I have one six-year-old grandson who is on the autism spectrum, which tends to exacerbate food choosiness, particularly when it comes to texture.

 

He will not eat ANY vegetables. He used to eat sweet potato, mashed potatoes, and green peas, but won't touch them any more. The only meat he will eat is chicken nuggets. He will eat breads -- loves pancakes and waffles, oddly enough, without syrup -- and eats grilled cheese sandwiches. Won't touch a hamburger or any other kind of sandwich featuring meat. Used to eat fish sticks, but won't do that any more. Mac and cheese is also on the used-to-eat list; won't touch that now. Won't eat eggs in any form. Won't drink milk.

 

He does, at least, love every kind of fruit, except for strawberries and avocados. 

 

I suspect his mother will eventually have to go to the point of not allowing him to have any of his "will eat" foods until he tries a forkful of something else. Hard for me to do that on the once-a-week basis I usually have him here overnight.

 

By contrast, my other six-year-old grandson's favorite snack is raw bell pepper strips. Kid is weird.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Posted (edited)

Great responses from all...I can't add much as I do not have kids but I do remember my sister would never eat mashed potatoes as a kid - texture thing.  Now...please don't get between her and a bowl of them!!!

As a teen I would always make my grandfather his favorite liver every other month or so and try it....still can't eat it.  While working in a kitchen I had to have my boss taste the country chicken liver as I could not choke it down.  Tonight I am trying eggplant(again).  I have never liked it but found a new recipe to try and maybe I will like it.  If not - I have a vegetarian friend who will appreciate it .

 

oh....and salmon.  I have tried it canned, fresh in WA state, smoked.   Uh, noooooooooo

 

EDITED to say...uh, no go on the eggplant.  The marinara and cheese were good, especially over bucatini with sautéed zucchini but the eggplant😜


Edited by suzilightning (log)
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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Wonderful input.    Kids are so idiosyncratic that you often have to try a multitude of approaches to find a key.    One grandchild is a natural vegetarian, choosing broccoli over any other food offered.    Also arugula.    Will chose either as special breakfast treat.    His sister has a sweet tooth, will not touch broccoli flowerets but love the stems "because they're sweeter".   Okay, if you think so.    The third will eat raw vegs if that's all the snack offered.   

 

But they all ratted me out by telling their parents they wanted the sauce Ama makes when they sleep over.     I hate to play Mary Poppins, but a spoonful of cheese sauce sure helps the broc and cauliflower go down!   

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eGullet member #80.

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I loved vegetables as a kid and still do. My sister wasn't so much of a fan as a kid then was a vegetarian for a while as an adult. No predicting. Finding some kind of sauce or topping that they like for the veggies will persuade most kids to eat some of them more willingly.

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"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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