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The Impact of Trying New Foods: Get Kids Outside Their Comfort Zone

One of our son’s favorite episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is when Daniel’s mother encourages him to try new foods. “Try new food because it might taste good!” she says.

Sure, it can be daunting for a kid to experience a new texture or taste … and we’ve all done the compromise dance as parents. “Take one bite of broccoli and you can have a cookie.”

But what about when it comes to trying new foods from around the world or other cultures? Can something positive come from this small effort? Raising a good eater isn’t always the easiest—but by creating a more well-rounded experience for your children when they sit to eat at your table, it will teach them respect and also expose them to the incredible diversity of the world.

How to Broaden Your Breakfasts (and Lunches and Dinners …)
We all have a family culture and we’re usually comfortable eating foods that are connected to it. Italian? You probably have pasta several times a week. Hispanic? Tacos aren’t reserved for Tuesdays only. Asian? Dim sum and chopsticks are your forte.

First things first: you’ve got to learn a little bit about another culture that isn’t your own and understand what other families eat around the world. Books like this one can help foster intrigue from your own children. Read a bit about food before you head to the grocery or restaurant. This will help minimize reluctancy and hopefully show that other children eat things besides pizza and macaroni and cheese in their cultures.

It may take time, but with your help you can turn your picky eaters into world food explorers. Here’s how to start:

  • Let them choose. Make a specific ethnic or cultural dish and serve various toppings on the side. Also, make sure there are at least 2-3 other foods on the table you know they will eat if all else fails. Giving them the ability to choose allows your littles to have more ownership and control of what they are eating—and you can rest easy knowing they won’t go to bed hungry.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat exposure. Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither will your child’s new eating habits. Don’t get discouraged if he or she doesn’t love it from the first bite. Keep trying. It can take up to 20 times of trying a new food before they accept it. Consider serving it in a variety of ways—raw, steamed, grilled, chopped … you never know which one will make them fall in love with a new flavor.
  • Make it a family affair. It’s no secret that children are more likely to eat something if they had a hand in preparing it (this goes back to the first point about letting them choose and having ownership). Before you dive into a brand new meal, have them help you with something they already love to eat. This will boost their excitement when it comes to making (and trying) something new.

By becoming more culturally aware of foods outside what they’re used to (or their own country), children will develop a curiosity and verve for life. They’ll be more likely to ask questions with an open mind and a desire to learn—not judge. They’ll develop empathy and understanding for others and they’ll identify similarities with people from around the world, thereby feeling a connection with them. Additionally, they’ll recognize differences as things that make us unique rather than keep us apart.

Cook with Little Learning Hands
Want to bring cultural foods into your home? Each Little Learning Hands subscription box includes a recipe card. Children can taste delicious food from different countries by cooking together as a family. By cooking together—and trying new foods—you’ll empower your children with valuable life skills that will spark their love for exploration and diversity.