Strategies for Countering Taste Issues

I’ll admit it. I used to think I hated spinach. My stepmom would fix frozen spinach, boiled, and served with cider vinegar. It was dark, greenish black, mushy and bore no resemblance to the original vegetable at all. I was never a picky eater, but I would not touch the stuff.

Then one day, she fixed spinach salad. And it was good. A light went on and suddenly I realized the difference between not liking a recipe versus not liking a vegetable. When the Battle of Orange Food began, I applied this knowledge with abandon. Our little family had pumpkin pancakes, soups, entrees, rice and pasta dishes, cookies, bread, pie, baked, roasted, steamed. But not raw — at least not with pumpkins. As I tried new and different approaches, my batting average began to creep up, too. More and more recipes were tried and even liked.

Here’s how you can apply creativity and variety to better your child’s odds for liking a new vegetable:

  • Avoid the canned varieties. Fresh or frozen vegetables taste better and sweeter. Ever had canned asparagus? Enough said.
  • Try variations with both the plain vegetable steamed and roasted plus a simple topping or sauce and dishes where the vegetable is one of many flavors. Some kids don’t like casseroles or too many elements in a dish.
  • Incorporate the vegetable into different types of dishes and courses. The more opportunities to try a new vegetable and greater percentage of healthy dishes in a day increase your odds of success.
  • Use favorite ingredients and types of food to help sell the new vegetable. If pasta is your child’s favorite, try a recipe that incorporates pasta. Or a bit of cheese, or a pizza.
  • Stop and remember your own experiences as a child. What did you hate trying and why? Apply that experience to changing the way you serve vegetables to your family.
  • Never overcook vegetables, especially green ones. This can make them bitter, mushy or exaggerate some of the off flavors cole crops like Brussels sprouts, kale or cauliflower get when overcooked.
  • This won’t work when your child is young, but as she gets into grade school, you can ask her if she likes the new recipe and if not, explain that it’s the recipe and you are happy to try new ways to prepare the food. I have pulled out cookbooks and gone through the pages with my child and had her choose ways to prepare foods that she would enjoy trying. We made a list together and have enjoyed the new kitchen adventure.


Published on: September 28, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

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