Some kids snack on carrots, raw peppers, and hummus, while other little connoisseurs would rather grab some pasta, rice, or bread. Why is that? Turns out, there are plenty of reasons.
A review of dozens of studies that date back to the 1990s which looked at kids' eating patterns found that fussy and picky habits were linked to and affected by everything from personality traits to parental control at mealtime and social influences. Or it could just be a kid being a kid.
To learn how different cultures lure choosy children into consuming calories, Reddit user u/Buugybuug asked people: "What recipes do picky eaters all over the world use?" And their question was heard. Here are some of the answers it has received!
When I was a kid (in Canada) I loved grill cheese and tomato soup !! And I still do actually lol
Ciara Attwell, founder of the family food blog My Fussy Eater and mom-of-two, has been covering this tricky topic extensively since 2014.
"First of all, I think it's important for parents to know that fussy eating is extremely common," the author of 'We're Hungry!' told Bored Panda. "Parents will often blame themselves but so many children go through picky phases at different times. Don't feel bad or guilty about it at all. There's lots that you can do to help your child going forward."
As a Jew lemme tell you about latkes. Basically a potato pancake. My kid loves to dip them in applesauce in the morning, ketchup at night. They’re versatile, filling, easy to make, you hold them in your hand...Perfect kid food.
My Irish dad used to always make me potato cakes out of leftover mash potatoes and some flour. He then fries them and we’d have them with eggs and bacon. Not the healthiest but I used to really love it
You can start by introducing only one new food at a time. "We don't want to overwhelm the child and potentially increase any fear or anxiety they have around new foods. For moderate fussy eaters, I would recommend introducing one new food every 3 days and for more severe fussy eaters maybe even one a week," Attwell explained.
"Also, don't overwhelm the child with a whole plate of the new food. Add just a small amount to their plate alongside lots of foods that they know and love. I call this the 80/20 Rule — 80% safe foods and 20% new foods."
I'm for India and the only thing I've persistently loved since childhood is Rajma Chawal. It's basically black kidney beans and rice. Try looking for an authentic recipe online. You can adjust the seasoning but oh god it's lip smacking. Another thing was amritsari kulcha. A weird way to describe it would be saying it's similar to stuffed naan. But waayyyy better. We eat it with chhole (chick peas) you should try that too!
Mexican, and my favorite lazy food is migas. Get five tortillas per person, cut them in half and then slice them into strips, fry them, and pour two to three beaten eggs on top. Let that cook for a minute or two, just enough for the egg to slightly set, and then stir it around a bit so it's not one giant mass. Serve and top with sour cream and salsa Valentina.
Keep in mind that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. "With very fussy kids, your goal when first introducing a child to a new food isn't to get them to eat it, it's to get them to accept that food on their plate," Attwell highlighted. "If they remove it the first couple of times, that's ok. It's all part of the process."
"Once the child has accepted the food on their plate, then it's time to get them to interact with it. That's touching it, smelling it... Everything except for asking them to taste it. Let them build up to this in their own time. Patience is key!"
When they look like they're ready to make the leap, Attwell suggests asking them to try what she calls TTT — teeny tiny tastes. "Let them know that it's ok if they don't like it," she said. "After one bite, they can put the food down and leave it there. Once they have tried it but told you that they don't want to try anymore, don't force them to try it again. It's important that you gain their trust and they know that they are not being forced into it."
Salvadorean here, my kids will never turn down fried plantains and refried beans. Fast, simple and so tasty! It was my favorite growing up too!
From Korea, I highly recommend gimbap! It looks similar to a Japanese sushi roll but no raw fish. Typically what goes in is rice, seasoned and sautéed veggies, fried egg, and meat of your choice. Lately, there has been a lot of American influence so I’ve also seen fusion gimbap like “hamburger gimbap” or ham and cheese. This may not be an everyday meal since it is work prepping all the ingredients you want to include, but it’s way easier than it looks! You don’t even need the sushi rolling mat. It’s also fun to get the kids involved asking them what foods they want to include and help constructing and rolling them up :) kind of like pizza night- just with gimbap. It’s also a fun, easy, and delicious way to add more veggies into their diet.
The actual food aside, there are other ways in which you can try to ease your kid into exploring their taste buds. Like consistent mealtime schedules. "Choose a time of the day or even day of the week when kids are alert and relaxed and not tired," Attwell said.
"Evening time is probably the worst time for most children, especially when they are young. They are too tired by 5 PM to start trying new foods so choose a time earlier in the day when they are more likely to engage with the process. Weekends are also great to get children to try new foods. They will be less tired and more open to exploring new tastes and textures."
Even though you control what, where, and when food is provided, remember, it is your child that ultimately decides whether or not to eat it and how much to eat.
Meatballs with gravy and smashed potatoes. You can think Ikea meatballs but home made from better ingredients. Salmon and potatoes. Pasta bolognese. Fish sticks. Strawberries and other berries. Porridge with milk or berrysoup. Usually kids eat what they parents eat but in the school lunch or kinder garten lunch or at your grandmas the former meals are beloved.
Omurice! (ketchup fried rice wrapped in egg omelet) Classic Japanese "kids meal" item
Uk kids food is pretty similar to US kids food, but one thing I was, and am still obsessed with, is gravy on everything. I was a super picky eater as a child, but always loved a roast dinner (British Sunday classic!) smothered in gravy
Also anything on toast is pretty popular kid food in the UK - baked beans on toast, cheese on toast, mushrooms on toast
And a final favourite from a former picky eater- baked potatoes, aka jacket potatoes! I recently revived this dish as an adult and made them topped with roasted broccoli and cheese, yum
Another Norwegian here. Basically all kids like liver paté. Another surprising thing kids tend to like here is caviar. Not like the Russian kind, but this smoked cod roe product that we have here.
Belgian here. Our kids love stoofvlees, which is essentially a meat and beer stew. They eat it with french fries and apple sauce.
When I lived in Ecuador as a kid pretty much all I ate was salchipapas. It’s French fries with cut up hot dogs in it. Soooo good
Egypt: a dish called Chicken Pané, a filet of chicken breast breaded and fried.
To trick your kids into eating veggies, you'd make them Zucchini Béchamel: imagine a lasagna but substitute the lasagna sheets for grilled long slices of zucchini. Tastes delicious actually, I loved it as a kid.
Potato meatballs, mashed potatoes with herb butter mixed with cooked minced meat. This concoction is then formed into a flattened ball (oval?) breaded and fried.
As a desert, Om Ali, torn up pieces of puff pastry or bread soaked in sweet hot milk, shredded coconut, crushed nuts & baked with a layer of sweet whipped cream on top. Not the healthiest but children and adults love it.
In Argentina as a kid I would always eat milanesas with mashed potatoes. It's breaded thin meat (can be made with beef or chicken) and you either shallow fry it or bake it. I think most kids love milanesas, and if you bake them it can be a healthy meal. Spaghetti with tomato sauce was another frequent meal.
American, but I had Polish inlaws feeding my kiddo. She ate a lot of soft/fatty sausages, perogies, potatos babka, and SOUPS.
In Korea, kids usually eat kimchi fried rice, kimchi soup with rice and spicy stir-fried Korean rice cake(tteokbokki).
I’m in Australia - favourites in our house are lasagne (with hidden veg!), spaghetti bolognese, tacos, sushi rolls with tuna & avocado, shepherds pie, tuna pasta bake. My daughter also likes the Jamie Oliver hidden veg pizza sauce, I use it for pizza (obvs) but also pasta or anything that needs a tomato based sauce to boost the veg. I’m all about hiding the veg! I hide a head of cauliflower in Mac and cheese.
I am in USA but we are from India. My 3 year old eats - rice, daal, chicken kebabs, Indian veggie and meat dishes, parathas and rotis, chilla, dosa, Indian yogurt, (unflavoured) payesh (rice and milk dessert) fish coated with rava and baked/fried, baked fish, baked veggies. All these are cooked from scratch. Khinchdi is very easy and often made. He has boiled eggs, egg curries. He eats everything we eat like normal rice, curries but homemade curries are actually not spicy and quite healthy nothing like the restaurant curry.
In Israel, ptitim (Israeli couscous) is usually seen as a classic kids food. It's said kids are grown up when they start to prefer tahina over ketchup with their food.
Mostly corn porridge or 'mieliepap' in South Africa. With milk, meat or just so. Anytime of the day.
I’m French, and I was sooo picky when I was a kid. I didn’t like any kind of cheese which was hard growing up in France ! I remember eating a lot of pasta with tomato sauce, rice, mashed potatoes, chicken, ham and fish sticks. My mom made us lots of soup in the winter too (I only liked it if it was a certain color though, no matter what was in it). The typical French dishes that I ate a lot were croque monsieur (two slices of bread with ham and cheese in it, but my mom made it without cheese for me lol), gratin dauphinois (sliced potatoes with lots of cream in it and oven baked), quiche lorraine (a kind of pie with lardons in it), quenelles (don’t really know how to explain this one but look it up it’s delicious), hachis parmentier (shepherds pie but without the vegetable), crepes, duck confit, ratatouille... I’m pretty sure I ate all of these even if I was very picky so these can be trusted ! I ate a ton of sweet stuff too like cakes and desserts because my mom is a great baker.
Norway, daughter (4) has a glass of full milk in the morning, then 3 slices of bread with liverpâté and two small boxes of cucumber and bell peppers for the kindergarten (they don't cook anymore during covid). Sometimes cubes of cheese, some fruit or a yogurt.
For dinner she doesn't eat much, but she likes garlic bread, plain pasta/rice, loves broccoli and corn. We have chicken 3+ times a week that she likes, but wants all ingredients separate/deconstructed dishes.
German here - Cucumber with Maggi, Spätzle baked with cheese, Schnitzel, Potato salad, mashed potato, fish sticks, fried noodle with eggs, baked noodle with egg, ham and tomato sauce and of course Vesper, so basically a good sourdough bread with sausage, cheese and raw veggies
From Quebec, we have "pâté chinois" (we do have a lot of "Chinese" thing") that is also popular with kids. It's a layer of ground beef, under a layer of corn, under a layer of mashed potatoes. You can hide other veggies in the potatoes if you want it healthier...
China. My niece (2 years old) usually eat noodles with egg soup. The most common meals on China family table is “fried meals”, “fried in Chinese way”, aka “炒”. So kids eat 炒food with rice or Mantou(Chinese bread). Sometimes we just have dumplings.
Molasses pancakes - goes well with gingerbread seasonings added - you can use whole wheat flour for these since the molasses has a strong enough flavor to "cover" the whole wheat. You can use the apple butter in place of maple or other syrup as the topping too. I grew up in semi-rural Appalachia (Virginia) which was my dad's hometown, and of course have a fondness for regional comfort food.
Arroz con huevo frito. Cuban comfort dish - just white rice, fried egg on top, good squirt of ketchup on all of it. It's what I make when I don't really feel like cooking but I'm willing to wait 20 minutes for rice.
Here in Spain my two top picks would be, 'Arroz a la cubana' and 'croquetas'.
The first is simply white rice with tomato sauce and a fried egg sunny side up. With a side of a half of a pan fried (in oil) banana, if you are feeling fancy.
The second one is a leftover wonder: take any leftover meat and mix it with a béchamel until it gets thick, make a "football" shape, batter it and leave it in the fridge/freezer. When you want to eat them, fry them in very hot oil for 3-5min (olive oil is better, but it's not compulsory). Remove from the oil when its golden brown all around. They are great and I've never met a kid that didn't love them. Vegetable options are great, but meat ones are a must.
We're in Romania, and my kids eat what we eat, are not fussy, but when they were little, I had some go-to recipes such as omelette (simple, or with mushrooms, bacon, cheese etc.) with fresh tomatoes/cucumber/pepper, marinated meatballs, chicken in tomato sauce & potato puree, sauteed mushrooms, chicken rice, lentil soup, baked potato wedges & ketchup, carrot muffins. Our house rule is to always eat protein, vegetables, and fruit every day. If your kids don't like cooked vegetables - no problem, they can eat fresh carrots and cucumbers and peppers as a snack.
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