Having lived in Japan I can tell you that it’s perfectly normal for kids to eat sushi, yet when I was out for lunch a couple of months ago with my daughter and some friends of friends, one of them was absolutely shocked to see that my 3-year-old daughter, Anjali, was eating it. I was subjected to a line of questioning that went something like this: she eats sushi? (shock) how do you get her to eat it? (curiosity) she really eats it? (surprise) I can’t get my kids to eat it. (defeat). I felt like a parent hero, so I’m going to share some sushi success tips with you.
How to get your kids to eat sushi
This isn’t just about sushi, maybe your kids won’t eat carrots or salmon, or quinoa or whatever the latest trendy brain-growing-nutrient-plump health food is. Here are some rules I stuck to to get Anjali munching on maki:
1. Don’t just assume your children won’t eat things. Children in Japan eat raw fish everyday, children in India eat spicy curries and dishes filled with beans, cauliflower and other vegetables we consider kid repellents. Kids eat the things they’re accustomed to, so make sure they become accustomed to the things you would like them to eat.
2. Introduce foods young. Throwing some spicy-daal and some naan in front of your 9-year-old who’s never tried it is not going to go over well. Kids develop their preferences early, so introduce a variety of foods as early as possible to keep the doors open for future flavour lovers.
3. Persistence is important. The first time you give your toddler a papaya or zucchini they will probably pucker their lips and make that cute little ‘mom-that’s-nasty’ face and then promptly refuse to take another bite. That doesn’t mean you should give up and feed them grilled-cheese and macaroni with ketchup for the rest of their lives. Keep trying. Consider each taste one step closer to that food becoming part of their repertoire.
4. Don’t push. Be persistent, meaning have them try the same foods many times over several meals, but don’t become ‘that parent’ raving about the imperativeness of finishing your vegetables. It then becomes a battle of wills (that you will lose – since you can’t make kids eat, pee, or sleep) Crossing that line may mean you’ll never get them to try it. Play it clever and cool, act like it doesn’t bother you one way or another if they eat it-aim for one or two bites and try again next time.
5. Have them help with preparation or make it fun. We’ve had a few sushi nights where we make our own sushi. It’s unbelievably fun for Anjie to help out with making it, and she always gets hyped about eating it afterwards. Also, you’d be surprised by the pull-power of cutting food into fun shapes or arranging things in a fun pattern on a plate. Offer them a whole-wheat chicken pita with spinach…or offer a whole-wheat chicken pita with spinach in the shape of a dinosaur! The ‘hell nos’ suddenly become ‘hell yeses’.
5. Respect their palate. There are some things kids just don’t like and are never going to like. I for one have never and will never like brussel sprouts. Salt and pepper, eating them hot or putting butter on them just won’t change the fact that they are little, ugly, bitter cabbage-wannabes.
How do you get your kids to be adventurous little Foodies?