Foodgate: Expanding your Child’s Food Repertoire (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, I outlined a couple food fixes I used with my daughter and stepson; but there was more surrounding food for my stepson—he had a very, very limited palette. His diet consisted mainly of:

  • Caesar salad (bottled dressing)
  • Spaghetti
  • Fried chicken cutlets
  • Boiled (not steamed) broccoli with melted cheese on top
  • Steak
  • Hot chocolate (of course)
  • Fast food chicken items

Unfortunately for him, I don’t buy fast food, nor do I make any of the items listed above. I make everything from scratch and, because I knew that both boys’ had imbalanced diets outside of our house, I made sure to up my game whenever they were over with us. My goal was to get the most nutrients into them that I could; all the while allowing them to see that healthy could compete with the major fast food chains.

I will list some of my methods to get him eating, but the main thing I did to open his mind to new foods was: I empowered him. I made him a part of the process and decision-making. The other son didn’t have many issues surrounding food, so I needed to help free the little sprout from his fierce intake control.


Little sprout “hates” tomato-based pasta sauces, and big sprout “hates” cream-based sauces. Upon learning this, I explained to them that I would make three things over the next three sleepovers (again, reiterating that they had never had my cooking before).

Week 1: Rosé Sauce
A perfect combination of tomato and cream to please the masses.
Result: SUCCESS!

Week 2: Cream Sauce
Remember, the eldest always got what he wanted, so it was important to make the little one realize that things didn’t work that way in our house. Hence, his preference came before his brother’s. I made a very rich and creamy sauce that I knew the eldest would love too. (I had to slightly forgo the super-healthy aspect in order to prove my point.)
Result: SUCCESS!

Week 3: Tomato Sauce
Now that little sprout knew I was on his team, he was already more open-minded. I carefully chose my ingredients (nothing weird or wild), and made a savory and rich tomato sauce.
Result: SUCCESS!

food choices


Although still tied in with choices, I would sit down with little sprout and plan our future meals. I sometimes planned them well in advance with him, so he had something to look forward to in the time between visits. We talked about the foods he liked, and how we could incorporate them into our menu. He knew I was not going to make something different for each person, so letting him have input in our family’s meals made a huge difference.

culinary communication

Don’t accept failure

I’m not the biggest fan of Brussel sprouts, but it’s simply because most people don’t know how to make them without the result being a bitter flavor. My husband loves Brussel sprouts, so I went on a quest to finding a great recipe/method. Attempts one and two were a fail for little sprout, but my husband and his other son loved them both. I was determined to win this child over. After exhaustive research, I tried recipe #3 and almost lost a finger when I got too close to little sprout’s plate. He loved them! I didn’t cast away the other two recipe cards, but on this one, I marked it “The one Little Sprout will eat.”

food failures

Covert Affairs

Both boys “hated” tomatoes, and little sprout “hated” mayonnaise. Those were not the only things that the boys didn’t care for, but I’ll focus on these two as the example.

  • Tomatoes: For one year, I introduced “roasted red peppers” into many dishes. At first, both boys turned up their noses, because they thought they were tomatoes. They had never seen (or tasted) freshly made roasted red peppers, so the confusion was understandable. They loved all the dishes they were in, and cleaned their plates every time. After a year of successes, I informed them that they had been eating tomatoes all along—they weren’t red peppers. They were shocked, but giggled like crazy when they discovered that they both actually liked tomatoes.
  • Mayonnaise: As I said before, I make everything from scratch, and do my best to air on the side of extra healthy when the boys are over. Well, sometimes you gotta be naughty. So I offered up the treat of “Veronica’s Ridiculous Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.” I use two cheeses inside, and press the buttered exterior into grated parmesan cheese. The boys loved them, and would ask for the treat every couple of months. Anytime the request was made, I always told them, “I’ll make them on one condition. You have to go to your room and read while I make it.” They were game for sure.After a year of our tradition, I didn’t ask them to leave, but started pulling out the ingredients in front of little sprout. As he watched me take the mayonnaise out of the fridge he said, “Ewwwww! I hate mayonnaise!”“Really? But I thought you loved my grilled cheese sandwiches.”

    “You make them with mayonnaise?”

    “You bet! I don’t use butter on the bread, I use mayonnaise.”

    I don’t know what context mayonnaise was in his life before I came along, but he likes it on any sandwich we make for him now.

culinary covert affairs

What’s the moral of this story? Sit back and review where the resistance is, and empower that child to be part of the process.

Next week, I’ll wrap up this series with a few fun tips to get that picky eater running to the table.

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