By HOMA S. TAVANGAR
Million Moms Challenge Contributor
Sunday was World Food Day, and while hunger endangers the lives of too many around the world, for many parents, our daily food challenge might be more on the order of just getting our little ones to eat their broccoli.
I’ve found some simple strategies that help raise awareness about the world also can nurture more adventurous eaters.
In honor of World Food Day, start with these 5 Steps for Raising an Adventurous Eater.
- “Locate” it together: Begin your adventure at the grocery store or local farmer’s market. Let your little one choose: which vegetable and which fruit would they like to eat today? Then look for the label where it came from. Maybe Costa Rica or California or Croatia? Locate these places on a map at home, or right in the market on your smartphone. Role play or imagine the sort of journey a fruit salad from various countries might have made, and create a fantastic story of their villages, the person picking them, and how they got here to make eating it exciting – and enticing.
- Ditch the kids’ meal. When you’re home, prepare one meal that everyone will eat. Arrange your schedules as much as possible so that parents are eating together with the kids. Your example trying new foods and eating together is powerful. At restaurants, avoid the kids’ menu, which often is composed of the least healthy options. It’s fun and cost effective to choose a dish together with your child that you might share, and possibly order an appetizer or side dish you both like.
- Take a global culinary journey. Decide on several countries, or even a whole continent you’ll “visit” over several weeks or months through the choices of ethnic restaurants within driving distance (or new recipes at home). For example, you can go from Chinese and Vietnamese food, to Thai, Malaysian, Mongolian, Indian and Iranian for a rich journey through Asia. Once you start searching, food diversity might be closer than you’d expect. Choose together which country to visit, find it on the map, learn a few words from that language, and possibly get friends involved. At the restaurant, ask the waiter or owner to help you choose some favorites for “beginners.” If they’re offered, try learning to eat with chopsticks while you’re waiting for the main dish to come out.
- Share stories of the most exotic food you’ve ever eaten. From about age ten or so, it’s fun to find out about foods you consider as really exotic—then what you’re trying to get them to taste may not seem so strange. My most bizarre food experience probably was eating a whole guinea pig in Peru (a regional specialty). It was lying on its back, with paws straight up, stiff in the air, smothered in a tasty tomato sauce. Among my daughter’s own culinary adventures, this experience of eating cuyi was one of their favorite stories – and suddenly made their chicken and spinach seem palatable.
- Make a difference! About 925 million people globally suffer from chronic hunger. No one should be guilted into eating because of starving children elsewhere, but age-appropriate doses of awareness will make wanting to make a difference come naturally – eventually. A great place to start is the Million Moms Challenge. Through its pre-screened partner organizations like GAIN, CARE, Global Giving and UNICEF, you can help children and their moms worldwide access life-saving nutrition and healthcare, and join a larger community of folks to make a difference. Don’t forget the on-going needs of food pantries in your local community, too. By engaging in solutions to food challenges anywhere, your family can start to feel like a “link” in a long chain of eaters near and far.
As I try to raise my own adventurous eater, I hope that her journey toward experiencing the exciting palate of global flavors accompanies that of adequate food – and maybe even some choices – for ALL the world’s children, on World Food Day and beyond.
Do you have a tip for raising an adventurous eater?
Homa S. Tavangar is the author of Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World (Random House/Ballantine). See GrowingUpGlobal.net for more ideas on raising global citizens.