How to Convince Your Kids to Eat ‘Scary’ Foods

Some foods we adults love are completely intimidating to the younger set. Kids, picky or not, are the ultimate food snobs. Dishes that look weird, smell odd, or require special tools or preparation are just not going to pass their detailed inspection.

How do you get kids to decide lobster is succulent and not scary, or that sushi is divine and not disgusting? We asked chefs, parenting pros, and moms and dads in the trenches to tell us.

And if all else fails: Add bacon!

Sushi

Artfully arranged on a platter, sushi and sashimi look inviting, like colorful little goodies so easy for kids to pop right into their mouths. But once kids learn what these treats really are, they’ll drop that gorgeous tekkamaki faster than a hot potato. Cold, raw fish is just too gross for words.

Or is it?

“The shrimp tempura roll is the gateway to sushi,” says Camille Carter, a New Jersey mom of two who has been taking her two kids on food adventures for over a decade. “Once my kids mastered the shrimp tempura roll they moved on to California rolls, followed by different varieties of raw-fish sushi. Mommy and daddy always raved about it, so they were eager to try it. Plus my kids love to dip, so sushi has the added excitement of the cute little bowls of sauce.”

Game Meats

Kids don’t care that rabbit, elk, or deer have a delicious and complex, rich, earthy flavor. Bottom line: They aren’t going to eat anything cute or cuddly, or that could have been a potential pet—no matter how good it tastes.

“Disney makes game cute! That is why we eat chicken and not rabbit,” Hudson Valley chef Ric Orlando says. But “rabbit is an easy entry into game—it tastes like chicken. Try braising it in a simple cacciatore. Introduce venison in a recognizable format like a burger or a taco. Tell them afterwards what they ate—just don’t use words like “cute,” “little,” or “bunny.” Older kids will like that eating game is green, good for the world, and that they aren’t adding to the commercial meat industry.”

Brussels Sprouts

Miniature green cabbages that stink up the entire house while cooking? No thank you!  Kids seem genetically coded to hate Brussels sprouts before the vegetable ever enters their mouths.

Kiki Schaffer, mom, grandmother, and director of parenting, family, and early childhood at the 14th Street Y in New York City, suggests families “have a tasting party, invite a few friends, and everyone brings a food for all to taste. Everyone has to take one bite of each food and rate it on a sheet. Have a copy of the sheet for each person with categories like ‘Sublime’ or ‘I’d Eat It Every Day in a Row for the Next Three Weeks’ to ‘Disgusting’ or ‘Puke-worthy.’  After everyone has tasted the food and marked their sheet,  share your ratings with each other.”  Schaffer adds: “This is successful if you keep it small and only invite kids who get it.”

Spinach

Popeye loved him some spinach. Kids not so much. The dark, leafy greens might get a first taste since they aren’t offensive-looking, but the bitterness often keeps kids from trying a second bite. Overcook them and they’re a green, gooey mess.

“You have got to think like a kid if you want them to try new things, and kids are supervisual,” explains “Cheffy” Michael Uhnak from Besaw’s in Portland, Oregon. “People always overcook spinach. No one wants something that looks like a green glob on the plate. Sauté spinach so it’s still leafy with some life to it, and the kids will eat it.”

Besides the fact that this  intimidating vegetable looks absolutely bizarre, kids have no idea of how to eat it.

How to Convince Your Kids to Eat 'Scary' Foods

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