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Amongst other things, this is a love story.... the theme changes occasionally... this year it is fitness and learning to love yourself.

22 August 2013

Just add salt.

The first year I started cooking for my bonus kids was tough.  They seemed so afraid of some of the new foods I made that they would cry and even gagged a few times...they were used to their Dad cooking simple meals or buying them 'treats'.  I did my best to try and please them but there was no way in my lifetime that I was going to let these kids eat hot dogs, pizza and chicken nuggets as a staple on my watch.  Junk food was no longer to be considered a treat, and a whole lot more salad, vegetables and home made food was going to be on the menu.

Four things I did to introduce new foods.

1) Make a dish they have learned to love. The day before I make them something they never used to like but now do. I reminded them how they used to hate it, and praise their maturing taste buds. "When you were babies you only liked milk, now you are growing up and enjoy lots of new foods"... I encourage a conversation about the first time they tried something and the first time they liked it. I remind them that the food is the same as always but their taste buds are different.  I promised them that we only make them eat healthy, fresh food because we love them. If we didn't care about them we would let them eat all the rubbish they wanted and they would end up being unhealthy and most likely unhappy adults. I shared a few 'little known facts' based on my own experiences, like you only have to try a food 17 times before your taste buds learn to love it. The kids love reporting that they like a food before the 17th taste, though we never really keep count. It goes something like this. Child says "Ida I love celery now and I have only tasted it 9 times."  I say "wow you are growing up fast, soon you'll be asking me to cook mushrooms!"

Thanks Keli Nina Perkins

Add lots of salt and/or sugar.  If your kids love fast food and highly processed rubbish, all the real flavours come from salt and sugar.  I add extra salt to new dishes and let them add more salt, until I'm sure all they can really taste is the salt. Of course each time I cook the dish again I add more of what we like and a lot less salt. One chilli seed at a time (not the whole chilli) to build a tolerance. I introduce new flavours slowly, for example, I chop or wipe onion or garlic over the board then chop the other vegetables, so the subtle flavour of onion is on everything but you can't see it, then occasionally a few finely chopped pieces make it in to the dish... oops! It took a little time but now I don't have to keep onion in a separate dish for the adults, we all eat onion in our salad.

Keep them a little bit hungry and they are more likely to eat a new dish. This,I learned from a Grandmother who raised her 9 children, on a farm by herself after her husband died in his early forties. Serve a small breakfast and lunch and no snacks throughout the day. When the mid afternoon munchies arrive I offer them some water, if they don't want water then they are not really thirsty or hungry. If they are 'starving' I remind them that poor kids are lucky if they eat once a day, and they will survive the two hours until dinner time just fine.  No sweet drinks on the table, but plenty of water (for all that extra salt!).  Prepare the new food alongside a small portion of one their favourites. Give them too many choices and they are not going to try something new.  They are more likely to taste and appreciate a new food if they are hungry.  I also encourage them to help me in the kitchen and do little taste tests along the way.

Give them information.  What makes people unhealthy and fat, what vitamins make people's bodies grow strong, brains smarter and skin glow?  What is really in a hot dog and what is candy really made of.  I make them aware of how they are always hungry an hour or two after a pasta meal but rarely after a well balanced meal. I planted seeds and we watched them grow and tasted our produce with and without salt, accompanying other foods and decide what tastes better with what.

There were some meals where nothing seemed to work, so they ate a hefty serve of rice or potatoes, but with a bit of persistence they have learned to introduce almost everything into their diet, they even ate a mushroom and a brussell sprout each the other night, without complaining.  They ask me to make salads and flavoursome soups now, of course they still always ask for pancakes or burgers and I've heard them coaching their cousins about trying new foods, because they have learned that life is so much more interesting when your taste buds aren't boring or afraid of new flavours.


17 comments :

  1. Hi Ida. Have not read your blog in a while and not sure who the bonus kids are. How many do you have? Are they foster kids? I'm impressed with your efforts to provide healthy food and the trying a food '17 times' concept. Love it! I used the 'girl scout' rule on my kids...one mandatory 'no thank you' bite.

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    1. Hi Sharon, the bonus kids are the Captains two sons. In Denmark the term for step children used to be pap (cardboard) children... it has recently become more modern to use the term bonus children, which I think suits our families situation perfectly. The girls scout rule sounds a lot like our 'pretend Queen Margarethe (of Denmark) is here for dinner' game :) that works well for table manners lessons

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  2. I love this article and your blog. Neat idea with the onions. My boys do pretty well with eating what I cook plus they are Gordon Ramsey wannabe's so that helps. I'm lorraine at http://lorrainesresresources.blogspot.com. I found you from the friday hop now following have a great day.

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    1. Thanks Lorraine I'll check out your page now, the boys do like the occasional cooking show but they prefer home renovations shows.. I'm hoping that translates to useful handy men around the house when they get older... :)

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  3. I figured the bonus kids had to be stepchildren!

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    1. I love the term in Danish I hope it catches on in the English language

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  4. Teaching children to eat a healthy diet can be a challenge, but well worth the effort. We spent the weekend with four of our grandchildren, and yes, they do like junk food, but they also love fruits and salads, and have a sophisticated palate for their young ages.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. It's nice to meet you, and it's my pleasure to return the favor. Matter of fact, count me in as your newest groupie.

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    1. Thanks Susan and my pleasure. A sophisticated palate is definitely a learned skill or behaviour, (as is learning how to teach kids to eat well).

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  5. Hi Ida,

    Very sorry it has taken so long to get here. What with flying back and forth, in an internet sort of way, I'm a bit jet-lagged, in an almost real sort of way.

    I shall keep my comment mercifully short. I do like that approach of gradually getting them off the rubbish foods, the salt and sugar laden foods until they can actually taste and prefer real food. And to have the bonus kids involved, is great way of empowering them. Excellent stuff.

    Take care, Ida.

    Gary )

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    1. My dear Gary, no need to apologise. I would never expect you to visit me by a certain time, I understand blog lag well. It really is a case of learning how to appreciate real food, where it comes, the benefits and the uses. Thanks for dropping in. :)

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  6. Hi Ida. Thanks for finding/following me. I can't believe it took so long to find each other. I like to follow as many Aussies as possible. You lead a very interesting life. What a romantic story! How exquisite! But weaning those kiddies off junk food must have been fun. Good for you. No doubt you have good Italian food origins. Nothing like fresh taste. Even kids aren't immune. Making fritters full of veges was my piece de resistance. Kids loved them big time.

    I hope to see lots more of you.

    Denise

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    1. Thanks Denise and yes of course I must try fritters again. Danish food is very traditional and plain, the first time I made vegie (corn) fritters I got the 'you must be crazy' look but that was a couple of years ago so they are definitely due for another attempt. I made sauerkraut and besan flour fritters, for the Captain and I, the other day they were surprisingly good. The Italian background in fresh food and gardening has helped a lot - I once got a job as a cook by convincing the boss that growing up with an Italian mum was all the education in food I needed :)

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  7. bonus kids is so much nicer than step children... are you a bonus parent then? Why weren't you around when I was trying to get mine to eat better?

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    1. Bonus mor (Mum) or bonus far (Dad) are what the step parents are called though 'pap' is still common especially with parents. The kids call me their Ida with an I, in Danish Ida is pronounced Eeda. It took them a long time to come to terns with their parents separating, so I've never pressured them to call me anything but Ida... and I still introduce myself to their friends as their Dad's wife/partner, but we call ourselves a family when we are together.

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  8. Absolutely agree that kids need to be educated about food. I don't stop them from eating junk food totally, but tell them what's not so good about them and that we can't eat that all the time, so they still get to eat their junk food

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    1. I love telling them that if i didn't love them so much i would let them eat junk food all the time. :)

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  9. I like your idea of trying it 17 times. Should try that on my own family. There's a lot of greens I want to introduce to our meals and so far they only try something once and if they don't like it then, they don't want to try again. Some foods it's not even as if they don't trully like them because they may have never have eaten them at all. It's that they don't like the idea of them, or heard someone say something uncomplimentary about them.

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Enjoy