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Dealing with picky eaters or want to get started on a family cooking project like I’ve done with my family? Start with taking your kids on a food date.
If you have young kids, keep the date simple and keep your expectations low. Younger kids may be less willing to try new foods than older ones, and of course, they could surprise you! For older kids, doing some pre-date preparation like talking about what you might see and how to behave along with extending the date with activities at home help cement the experience and make it a memory to repeat.
Places to Go
Local Farmers Markets
Farmers Markets are a great way to introduce your kids to the people who grow the food. Instead of food packaged in plastic wrap or bags, they’ll find loose carrots or heads of lettuce. Some farmers offer samples for tasting at their stalls. If your child is comfortable asking questions, you can find out where the farmer is located and what methods they use to grow their crops. For younger kids, focus on the unusual varieties they won’t find elsewhere.
With many farmers markets opening up in a few months, you can plan ahead by finding one through Local Harvest. Don’t forget to look for permanent farmers markets and winter farm markets. In my area, we have Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philly and Lancaster Farmers Market in Wayne.
Taking your child to an ethnic restaurant is a great way to immerse them in the culture of the food. I still remember sitting on pillows at a Moroccan restaurant in Philly and sharing dishes. Depending on the type of restaurant prepare your child beforehand for the experience by talking about familiar foods they might find on the menu, whether or not they’ll be using the same silverware, and how the dishes are served.
Specialty Food Shops
While specialty food shops such as Asian ones are touted as a great way to save money, they’re also a great way to introduce kids to unusual ingredients like cow tongue or edame or Oriental cucumbers. Pick up a few ingredients that appeal to your child and bring them home to cook up to extend the learning experience. If you’re not sure how to cook the food, look for ethnic cookbooks at the library together or google the name online.
Local Food Festivals
In the summer, food festivals focused on certain foods like strawberries and apples pop up everywhere. Depending on where you live, you can find small intimate festivals with just a few things to do, good for young kids, or more lively ones with entertainment and crafts giving older kids more to do and talk about.
Look for these types of festivals at local farms, orchards, churches, and schools.
Pick Your Own Farms
During the summer, there are lots of opportunities to pick your own fruits and vegetables. If you belong to CSA, see if they have pick your own days for members. Check the Pick Your Own site to find the closest farms in your area.
Your Local Grocery Store
Yes, you can take your child on a food date at your grocery store. If they have a favorite recipe they can help make, take them shopping for the ingredients. Extend the experience by figuring out the price of the recipe and what to do if you don’t have the ingredients at home or can’t find them at the store. Some stores offer a free tour for kids complete with snack at the end.
Sharing a food experience can be a way to encourage your child to eat healthy and try new foods without much pressure. Bring the experience home by trying some of the foods or recipes you found on your date. Bon appetit!
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