Sometimes my process goes right out the window because, well, I don’t know that I’m trying new food. Though it doesn’t happen often, it isn’t unusual for me to be surprised by an unexpected ingredient, especially when eating at a restaurant. This happened (thankfully with success) during my first date with my now-husband, Drew.
On the night of our first date I was nervous but excited – I couldn’t believe I was going out to dinner with a co-worker! The typical questions went through my head – is this a date date or just a fun night out? How will it go? What if I embarrass myself or it goes poorly and work becomes awkward? I wasn’t really thinking about what I would be eating, especially when I walked into the restaurant and watched him stand up in his work shirt and jeans (confession – this was my first time seeing him with his shirt un-tucked and for some reason I thought it was SUPER attractive).
We chatted while we looked over our menus so I don’t remember taking in much information other than seeing “fish tacos – fried cod and coleslaw.” The food came and we kept chatting while we ate, I was still so excited and chatty that I doubt I tasted much in my taco. Then I actually looked at it and there was a green, creamy blob I didn’t expect to see. I sat for a second then said “oh my gosh, there’s guacamole in here. And I think I like it!” Drew already knew a bit about my picky eating so he just burst out laughing and joking how amazing it was that I tried something and liked it.
So, yeah, I had no idea what I was eating but liked it a lot! In fact, I almost always get the fish tacos when I go to The Claddagh Pub.
I think a few factors were at play that helped me try this food and like it so much:
- I was in an exciting, distracting atmosphere
- I was with someone I enjoy talking to
- The guac was mixed in with other ingredients I really like that almost masked the guacamole flavor at first
- There was no build up or (food-related) anxiety
I Like Guac, but not on its Own
I really like guac in tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. but I don’t like just chips and guac on their own. The texture is a little too grainy yet fluffy with chunks…which doesn’t feel right with the taste. If there are spicy guacamole recipes maybe I’d like it more, but when it’s too bland I only focus on the texture and not the taste. I’m working on liking guac and chips, but it might take a bit before it’s an app I choose at a restaurant or party.
This Worked for Me, But Don’t Think You Should Stick New Food into Every Recipe
I know this may feel like I’m saying try to trick your picky eater by sneaking new ingredients into their food without warning. This can lead to distrust, fear, and anger at meal times. My goal with this blog is to help do the opposite of that. So for this post I’ll recommend a different approach to this tactic.
Pick an Exciting Setting
At a party, theme/water park, the beach, anywhere your kid is too excited to be? Then they’ll be less likely to be focused on the food set before them and more eager to get back to the action.
Tap into Their Chatter Box
Keep talking to them about the fun things you’re doing while eating to keep their mind off of their meal. Even better – ask them what the first ride, game, slide, etc. they want to do once they’re done eating. Give them something to be excited about so the fear of eating doesn’t feel so big anymore.
Add Food They Love
Masking the taste of the new food with food they already like can work wonders in helping your eater like a new food. I’ve done this with guac, pork, potatoes, onions, and more. By using a food I already like as a vehicle for the new food, then I swear I’ve tricked my own mind into believing I liked a new food I may have not liked if I tried it on its own.
Keep it Light
This can be taken in two different ways: light attitudes and light servings.
Keep your conversations happy and exciting. Don’t be serious, don’t pull the stern “we aren’t leaving this table until you’ve finished your food.” Instead talk about what they want to talk about and what they’re excited for. Joke around, even if they don’t like it joke about it! Not liking a food can be a scary or disappointing moment. So instead of letting them stay down try to bring them up with humor!
When giving them the new food, just use a bit of it. Don’t use a full amount as you would in your own dish because that is a scary amount for them. Instead, even just a few crumbs of a new food is sufficient. Yes. That small is plenty. Think about it, you’re used to the flavor and probably like it, so you think more is best, right? Nope. Not for a picky eater. Smaller is better because they can easily get the flavor out of their mouths quicker, the size doesn’t look intimidating, and they could try to pretend it isn’t even on their spoon.
Don’t Do This Every Time
Take it from me. Being expected to try a new food at every meal is exhausting. Don’t do this process every single time your at the exciting, distracting place. Just do it every once in awhile, especially on days they’re clearly too excited to think much of food. But if you keep doing this at every party or park, then they’ll associate that place with trying new foods and they won’t like it anymore! Think about it, if you are always pinched when you go to Target, then you won’t want to go to Target anymore or always be paranoid of being pinched. So don’t pinch your kid, give them a break and let them eat their chicken fingers in peace.
Keep Reminding Them if This Works
Find this tactic worked for your eater? Then remind them of it! Help them remember it doesn’t have to be as scary as they’re making it. Remind them they had fun when they tried a new food and let them know it can still be fun even if they don’t like the food. Heck, Drew LOVES to remind me of the guac incident and its helped me realize that trying a crazy new food I didn’t think I’d ever try doesn’t have to be a major event.