5 Tips to Expanding Your Kids’ Palates


When I was growing up we were not given a choice of what we did or didn’t want to eat. You ate what was put on the table or you didn’t eat. And should you be allowed to leave food on your plate, it would be saved for you to eat at the next meal. That may sound a little too strict for some, but it’s what worked. I used the same approach with my eldest daughter, now 22, and I’m doing the same with my three younger children ages 10, almost 9 and 6. Sometimes kids can be stubborn when it comes to expanding their palates, but these five tips should help you out.

Tip #1: Do it on a regular basis.

Introducing new foods or re-introducing old is sort of a tradition here. Now my children are excited when I say, “I have something for you to try today,” (right before the meal — not in advance). They look forward to what they’ll experience next. Here’s what I do: I place their main meal on the table as well as the new or different item. Sometimes it’s on their plate if it “matches,” and sometimes there’s a cute side plate. When they tried green, yellow, orange and red peppers I included dip, sauce and dressing. First they tested each pepper plain then tasted each one with an add-on. The consensus: All are good plain except the green. This works with any food group or item.

Why does it work? They have options and feel in control.

Tip #2: Don’t change the way you cook.

Of course this doesn’t apply to allergies or intolerances, but I don’t alter my ingredients. I still used green peppers in meals even before our food experience of tip #1. I’ll sometimes add peas to spaghetti sauce or other veggies, too.

Why does it work? Consistency is important.

Tip #3: Add unfavorable foods to ones they enjoy.

Just like the spaghetti I mentioned above, I add mushrooms, carrots, broccoli and anything else to tasty food. I guess you could say I’m lucky because my children, in general, enjoy vegetables. When they start acting a little blah about regular sides items, whether it is veggies or starches, then I get a little creative.

Why does it work? It’s still consistent.

Tip #4: Be creative.

My children are not a fan of spinach, but they do like it in spaghetti sauce, casseroles and even pot pies. Since a good number of children don’t like spinach, I’ll share a spinach pie recipe that I inherited from my mother:

– Pillsbury rolled crust
– Frozen spinach (if you use fresh, be sure to sauté it first)
– Chopped onions
– 1 to 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese (two to three different kinds)
– Seasonings of your choice (I use Old Bay, a pinch of salt and pepper, and garlic powder — or a teaspoon of fresh crushed garlic)

1. Prepare your spinach by thawing it thoroughly or sautéing. (Make it easy on yourself and take it out of the freezer in the morning and put it in a bowl in the fridge.) Drain well.
2. Chop your opinions into small to medium pieces.
3. Combine onions, spinach, cheese, and seasonings in a bowl. Mix well.
4. Roll the bottom crust out into your pie dish.
5. Add your spinach mixture (don’t forget to make sure the spinach is drained very well).
6. Sprinkle more cheese on top of the spinach mixture.
7. Roll out the other crust on top.
8. Crimp the edges. Brush the edges of your crust with a little butter or EVOO.
9. Bake on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the crust is an even light brown (a little darker than golden).

Tip #5: Keep it simple.

I must admit: I’m not that mom who researches recipes and searches the stores for foods to try. I will, however, experiment and modify our regular meals. I must be doing a good job because my children agree, “Mommy, you’re the best cooker ever.”

You’ll have to keep that in mind when they’re complaining. Good luck.

Photo credit: Thinkstock