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Kids will eat anything (if they help to make it)!

Published on February 20, 2013

Kids making and eating dumlings in a Growing Taste Buds class. Photos: Yuliya Tsoy.Growing Taste Buds classes get kids involved in every aspect of creating and enjoying
good, healthy food (Photos: Yuliya Tsoy)

By Kate Leinweber, RHN and Growing Taste Buds Facilitator

I started facilitating the Growing Taste Buds cooking class last winter, and as a holistic nutritionist, I ambitiously gave myself the challenge of getting kids to eat vegetables and super healthy food. Having access to them so young made me think that I could really have an impact on their eating habits and lifelong health. I deal with so many adults that are confused by the propaganda-filled world of “healthy food,” that I felt very grateful for the opportunity to give these youngsters a good dose of food education.

Of course, I was warned by parents that their children were very picky, that they didn’t eat certain foods and to expect them to reject anything “healthy.” I took the challenge head on, and in the first class served up salad with raw beets and cabbage. Turns out that with a side of hummus, the kids quite enjoyed it. Later they ate spinach crepes doused with béchamel sauce.

Their involvement in the kitchen was also inspiring. The kids were involved in every aspect of meal preparation (including cleaning!), and this seemed to be the key. Over and over, I found that these kids would eat pretty much anything if it were accompanied by a familiar food or taste and if they were involved in the preparation. I’ll never forget the way this was demonstrated on one particular Saturday last February.

One of the Farmers’ Market vendors, Fisherfolk, had brought oysters to the Market and Chef Bertrand Alépée, was a guest at their booth leading a shucking demonstration. The question was if I could get the kids to try them in Growing Taste Buds. I am an oyster lover especially since they are so high in zinc—crucial to our brain development, immune system and hormones—but serving raw oysters to kids? Is there a sauce they can smother them in? No? I really didn't think the kids would eat them, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a demonstration. So we invited the Chef to join us, with his charismatic French accent, as he told us about harvesting oysters and how to get them out of their shells.

Then the most miraculous thing happened. Bertrand asked for a volunteer to shuck an oyster and I watched in awe as our volunteer successfully shucked and then slurped that raw oyster off the shell, chewed, swallowed... and smiled—it was delicious! After that, all the kids lined up and one after another, tried their first raw oyster.

Giving kids the space and opportunity to cook, to be involved in the process, to be allowed to make mistakes and to try new foods again and again allows them to grow their taste buds. In this environment, the ideas kids come up with are often healthier than adults would expect!