If memories of your nieces Thanksgiving proclamation that she wouldnt be eating anything but hot dogs are haunting you this time of year, just try to think back to the time when you spit out mincemeat pie on your mothers good tablecloth.
Well, maybe you didnt do that. But I did. And thats why I try to keep childrens eating peculiarities in mind when it comes to upcoming holiday dinners.
Julia Just, a registered dietitian who works with children at Parkview Regional Health Center, says kids palates often react to strong flavors more than adults – we actually lose some taste sensitivity as we age, she says. So, kids like food to be, well, plainer than we do in the sauce-and-seasoning crowd.
Just, who has teenagers that will eat just about anything, says theres a cornucopia of strategies for hosts or guardians of underage picky eaters to avoid a food fight.
Plan, plan, plan. Thanksgiving has a few signature dishes, but usually theres a smorgasbord from which to choose. So, ask about food preferences of attending children and plan a few kid-friendly items – maybe mac and cheese, gelatin salad, raw veggies and fruits with a couple of dips, warm rolls.
Introduce new foods to children ahead of time. If theyve never tried a green bean and are still on french fries and not sweet potatoes, get them to try some in the weeks up to heading out, she says. Even with turkey – some kids might have never tried it. Some families may have never gotten beyond the realm of chicken nuggets and hamburgers.
Involve kids in making the meal. If theyve filled the apple-stuffed acorn squash, theres a better chance theyll eat it, Just says. And, never underestimate the value of smells to kids. Something that smells sweet and cinnamony in the oven may win over a kid who otherwise never would consider a food.
Tell stories about the foods being served. Whether the tale is about pilgrims and Indians or the corn pudding that your own grandma always served at Thanksgiving, handing down food lore can be an enjoyable part of the holiday, Just says. When children ask for your cranberry-orange relish recipe years from now, youll know why.
The just a taste trick. Dont insist kids eat everything – they dont have to eat the giblet gravy or the Brussels sprouts braised in wine to have a fulfilling Thanksgiving experience. But tell them they must eat just a taste from among the items served.
Use the power of hunger. Eat lightly and have them get plenty of exercise the day before and day of the big meal.
Its tempting to feed a child before a big family meal if you dont know how theyll react to new foods, but try not to, Just says. The tradition of sitting down together and eating with the family is too important, she says.