I was reading a Facebook post the other day where a friend was asking for tips on getting her kids to eat shellfish. At first I thought, I don’t really have any tips, my kids just love it. My kids are 9 and 6, and as I mentioned in my last post, their tastes are completely different, but they’re both pretty easy to feed.
Reflecting on it later, I realized that there are a few things I do around our house that may, at least partially, contribute to my kids open-mindedness towards trying new things. Nothing specific to shellfish, just tips towards food and mealtime, in general:
- The one bite rule – Unless it’s something that I know my kids loathe, they have to try one bite. This was always an easy one with my son, but it’s taken until the past year to really be able to enforce it with my daughter. If they don’t like the one bite, they don’t have to eat anymore. I usually have leftovers in the fridge that can stand in, in the interest of enjoying a meal as a family.
- Veggies before dinner – We usually eat dinner around 5:30, which means that by 5 pm, my kids act as though they are on the brink of starvation. I’ve found that if I sneak a plate of raw veggies under their nose about a half hour before dinner, they’ll eat them without any fuss. It also means that come dinner time, I’m less likely to sit there nagging “eat your veggies”.
- Involve them in the kitchen – Weekend scrambled eggs are my sons job and he rises to the occasion, complete with his own special recipe that includes a few different spices from the drawer. My daughter is my baking sous-chef, she also makes a mean piece of toast. When they’re helping, they’re naturally curious about the ingredients and more likely to try them.
- Grow a veggie garden – Even if it’s just one basket of herbs, there’s something about growing your own that makes little ones want to try new things. My kids will routinely pick fresh herbs, carrots and peas in the summer to snack on. They also like to be in charge of reporting to me the status of the plants.
- Take them shopping – When my kids were little, whenever we would go into the grocery store, if they were curious about any whole food, we would buy a little to try at home. This led them to trying dragon fruit, kiwis, mussels and prawns, to name a few. My kids are both in school now, so we don’t grocery shop together much anymore, but when they are with me, the same rule applies.
- Conversation – Show some excitement and talk to your kids about what you’re eating and making. Where it’s from, why it’s unique, what it’s similar to. Just having a conversation might help peak their curiosity enough to try something new.
- Patience – Try to remember that what they loathe today, they might love in 2 years. We all have different palates and we all grew up with dishes our parents made that we couldn’t stand. My mom used to make a casserole called Chinese Chow; a fine blend of ground beef, frozen veggies, snow pea pods, probably seasoned with soy sauce and then topped off with chowmein noodles. I had to try it many times because it was my dads favourite, so it often made an appearance on the dinner table. The result was always the same though, disgust and gagging on my end (sorry, mom). If I tried it today, the result would probably be different because tastes change and writing about it now, it doesn’t sound that horrible. Also, I’m an adult now, so my reaction would probably (hopefully) be a little less dramatic.
At the end of the day, I can’t say for sure whether my kids are easy to feed because of these tips or whether I just hit the jackpot as far as non-picky eaters go. In either case, I think they’re pretty worthwhile things to try. And, as much as it is possible, dinner shouldn’t be a battleground.
Being completely honest, while my kids gobbled up the cod in this recipe, they didn’t go for the veg mix, though they did scoop a few olives. Instead, I sliced up some cucumbers and because of tip 2, they’ll actually ended up eating double veg. Whoop whoop!
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Red onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Cup dry white wine
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp sundried tomatoes
1/2 Cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 Cup olives
1 1/2 lbs Oceanwise certified Cod, cut into 4 pieces
salt and pepper to season
1 lemon, divided
1/2 Cup fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit
Using an oven-proof pan, heat the olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another minute or 2 until the onions are beginning to soften. Add the wine and stir, scraping up any crown bit on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the capers, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and olives. Cut half the lemon into slices and squeeze the juice of the other half over the vegetables. Stir. Push the mixture to the outside edges of the pan. Season the cod with salt and pepper and place in the centre of the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden. Gently flip the cod over and top each piece with a slice of lemon. Place the pan in the oven and continue cooking until the cod easily flakes, about 10 minutes. Gently stir the parsley into the vegetables and serve. Makes 4 servings.