”When children eat beyond a steady diet of ‘kiddie foods,' their taste buds grow to appreciate a broader variety of flavors. So foods that are bitter or sour, or those made with a combination of flavors or a more complex texture, actually taste better than the standard fat-salt-sweet that is the flavor profile of everyday children's foods,” said child eating expert Nancy Tringali Piho, author of the book "My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything" (Bull Publishing Company, ISBN: 978-1-933503-17-2, $16.95).
Piho offers five tips to adjust children's palates:
1. Start infants out with ”real” flavors by choosing homemade baby foods over the jarred variety. ”It's easy to steam carrots or fresh beans, mash them up and feed to a new eater,” Piho said. ”It's also less expensive than buying commercial baby food and the taste is so much better.”
2. Don't be afraid to spice it up! ”Parents often believe that kids prefer bland foods, and they are almost afraid to add herbs, spices and things that will give foods more interesting flavors,” Piho said. ”When all kids have had is boiled veggies, it's no wonder they don't like them.” Try roasting or grilling vegetables, or saute with a bit of white pepper and fresh herbs.
3. Think ”fresh” and ”flavorful” for young children's snacks. Cut-up fruits and vegetables, plain Greek yogurt or a small serving of a delicious cheese is a better choice than packaged crackers.
4. Skip the juice. Always! ”Why teach children that beverages should be sweet?” Piho asks, Instead, have children drink water or plain milk.
5. Start kids off eating adult cereals, rather than children's cereals, which are intensely sweeter in taste.
Piho says the influence of parents in a child's early years is vital for teaching children about food in a way that will benefit their health and well-being throughout their lives. Her book draws on the research and experience of food and health professionals as well as renowned chefs.
Nancy Tringali Piho is a 20-year veteran of the food marketing industry, as well as the mom of two little boys who love to eat. For more information about Nancy, visit her website.