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Getting Your Kids to Try New Foods

It might have been unexpected ... but it worked

Photograph by Getty Images/Blend Images

Everyone who knows me knows that I object to the yellow-only diet. You know, the one with the bagel for breakfast, quesadilla for lunch and chicken fingers and fries for dinner, with some sort of bar or cracker thrown in there for a snack. As a pediatrician, I teach parents the importance of having a rainbow of colors on the plate, starting from the first bite of solids. As a writer, I rail against the high-fat, low-nutrition content of the kid’s menu. And as a mom, among my kids’ friends I am well regarded as the purveyor of the most boring (read: least sugary, most likely to grow on a tree, vine, or stalk) snacks.

But this doesn’t mean that my kids’ eating habits aren’t monotonous.

I just desperately wanted them to try new foods. I wanted them to eat as if they were traveling the world.

Yes, they may eat well, but there are long stretches of time when I can count on two hands the entirety of what they are interested in consuming. One green veggie, one type of fish, one family of fruit. If you just catch a glimpse of them, my kids look as if they are eating enviably well, but if you were to record the contents of each meal for a week or two, you would find the same things repeating themselves over and over and over.

Now this is no crisis. I tell parents all the time that eating a limited but well-balanced diet is just fine. It’s better than fine. And I truly believe this. But setting this fact aside, I just desperately wanted them to try new foods. I wanted them to eat as if they were traveling the world.

Early in my career as a pediatrician, I was taught that something happens to the taste buds around kindergarten. Before my very own eyes, I watched as some of my pickiest patients became downright adventurous eaters. Moms would brag that little Aidan who only ever ate pasta with butter was now ordering spicy tuna rolls at the local sushi bar. And so I waited patiently for this moment to strike in my own home. Kindergarten came and went for my oldest, and then for her younger brother. No wasabi watershed. Just water.

Then, this summer, it finally happened. I am slightly embarrassed to tell you how.

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