As the parent of a toddler, I know from personal experience how challenging mealtime can be. I make plenty of dishes that I know my daughter Sienna would enjoy if I could just get her to try them. It’s a timeless conundrum that many parents face. How do you get your young children to try new foods and flavors that they stubbornly refuse to eat because they are unfamiliar with them?
For starters, begin when they’re young. Really young. Baby’s palates are actually influenced by the food you eat when they’re still in the womb so expanding your child’s palate begins with you. After they are born, the foods and flavors you eat continue to be transmitted to them through breast milk. So if you’re eating highly seasoned food, chances are your child will like those flavors later on.
It’s a good idea to introduce a wide variety of foods as well as herbs and spices to babies and young children. The more flavors your child experiences at a young age, the more likely she is to eat a wide range of foods as she grows up. If you look at other cultures around the world including India, the Middle East or Latin American countries, people add a lot of variety to their baby food. Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor (as well as antioxidants) to your baby’s food without adding less desirable ingredients like sugar or salt. The eating habits you establish in your baby are going to continue into toddlerhood and beyond so don’t get stuck in a bland food rut. Get creative, mom and dad!
Around the age of two, many children develop a fear of new foods, which is called food neophobia. Although it can be very frustrating, it’s actually completely normal. Don’t fear- this is most likely a stage that he or she will outgrow. In the meantime, you may have to get a bit creative to get them to try new foods. Remember this important rule of thumb: repeat, repeat, and repeat! Expanding your child’s palate takes time and patience- it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll often need to expose them to new foods and flavors multiple times before they’ll even try it. Try offering a few familiar items along with a new item and do it slowly, over time. Above all, don’t give up! Stay focused on the fact that you’re introducing your child to new flavors and ingredients to expand their culinary horizons. You’ll also be putting them on the path to life-long good eating habits.
Here are some tips for introducing new foods and flavors to your kids:
- Get them involved. Take them to the grocery store with you and let them choose new and fun ingredients. Make them your kitchen helpers. Kids are more likely to eat something if they helped prepare it.
- Eat together. Prepare one meal for everyone, don’t make separate food for your child. Lead by example. If they see you enjoying new foods and flavors, they’ll be more likely to try it.
- Mix it up! Try cooking with a variety of different herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains. Color and variety are key. If you only give them chicken fingers and French fries, that’s all they’re going to want to eat.
- Go crazy with dips! Kids love dipping things into sauces. It’s fun and it makes them feel like they’re in control.
- Put a new twist on an old favorite. If they’re not willing to try new foods, try putting a twist on familiar foods so that it’s not too much of a change for them. Things like muffins, meatballs, French fries, pizza, pasta and tacos are all great places to start. If you incorporate new ingredients and flavors into these familiar dishes, your children will be more likely to try them.
Tasty Bite products are a great way to introduce your children to new foods and flavors, especially if you’re having a hard time getting them to eat their veggies. Their products are all-natural, ready-to-eat, vegetarian dishes with great taste, convenience and value. My daughter Sienna is all about finger foods and dipping sauces so I decided to make taquitos to introduce her to Tasty Bite. A taquito is a Mexican snack consisting of a rolled up tortilla, which is stuffed with fillings like meat, beans or cheese and then fried. Taquitos are the perfect kid-friendly food. You can stuff them with whatever nutritious ingredients you like and they’re also easy to pick up and dip into sauces. And unlike traditional taquitos, which are deep fried, mine are baked in the oven, making them much healthier.
Taquitos can be made with a variety of Tasty Bite products. They bake up crispy and golden on the outside with an ooey, gooey cheesy center. You can use corn or flour tortillas. I used both and they both came out well. Just be sure to wrap them tightly and bake them seam side down so they don’t open up during baking.
I made a mango yogurt sauce to dip the taquitos in. It’s a refreshing sauce with a little sweetness that kids will enjoy and it nicely complements the spices in the taquitos. Plus it has Greek yogurt, which is packed with plenty of beneficial ingredients for your kids including protein, calcium and probiotics. Here’s the recipe:
Tasty Bite Taquitos
- 1 packet Tasty Bite Madras Lentils, Vegetable Tikka Masala or Bombay Potatoes
- 12 small (6-inch) corn or whole wheat flour tortillas
- 1 ¼ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Olive oil
Mango yogurt dipping sauce:
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons mango chutney (like Major Grey’s)
- 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
- Preheat oven to 375° F if using corn tortillas or 400° F if using flour tortillas. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil
- Heat the Tasty Bite according to package directions.
- If using corn tortillas, heat a few at a time in the microwave for 10-20 seconds, wrapped in damp paper towels. This will soften them enough so that you can roll them without cracking.
- Place each tortilla on a cutting board. Spoon about 1 ½ -2 tablespoons of the Tasty Bite Madras Lentils, Vegetable Tikka Masala or Bombay Potatoes on the lower third of the tortilla. Depending on your child’s age, you can mash the vegetables or beans into smaller pieces or leave them as is. Keep the filling about 1 inch from the edges. Top with about 1 ½ tablespoons shredded cheese.
- Roll the tortillas up as tightly as you can. Place them seam side down on the baking sheet. Brush the tops and side of the taquitos with olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray.
- Bake in the oven 12-15 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving. Serve taquitos with mango yogurt dipping sauce.
Mango yogurt dipping sauce:
- To make the mango yogurt dipping sauce, mix the yogurt, mango chutney and cilantro together in a small bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of water as needed to thin it out to desired consistency.