Picky eaters can drive parents crazy. I know one baby raised solely on creamed spinach (imagine those diapers) and a little girl who refuses to eat brown food. One Texan friend could only get her son to eat corny dogs; another served pasta with butter nightly for nearly six years.
These are kids who are very selective or fussy with food, not those with allergies or digestive issues, and they can make eating out as a family a nightmare.
Traveling with the Picky Eater Takes Planning Ahead
Although we learn how to get even the fussiest children eating healthy meals at home, it can be an overwhelming challenge on vacation. At America's beach and ski resorts, on cruise ships and in themeparks, that's where the Kids Buffet — a colorful display of kid-pleasing, parent-hated foods like chicken bits, french fries, sausages, spaghetti, ice cream — comes in handy. Fortunately, moms' obsession with healthy eating has prompted companies like Club Med and Disney to offer kids meals with more healthy choices, fruits and vegetables.
But in my experience, even their playful approach to making nutritious foods appealing rarely includes a dish that could be considered "exotic" or flavored with interesting foreign spices. To promote healthy eating on vacation and make new foods less scary, bring them into the house with these recipes for picky eaters.
Bring Foreign Cultures into Your Home Before You Hit the Road
Traveling overseas with kids — even those who aren't fussy about eating — is a challenge I love. Broaden the family's world view before departure by introducing foreign films, music, arts and foods in the comfort of your home. Share photos, brochures and stories about your upcoming vacation. Everyone loves movies, so rent a Netflix, cartoon or "Sesame Street" filmed in your destination. Check iTunes for world music. The local library is a great resource for children's books; for example, there's a "Boxcar Children" mystery (more than a hundred of these fun family mysteries were written by Gertrude Chandler Warner) set in nearly every country we've visited with our son.
As for delicious new foods, introduce them at meal time before you pack your first suitcase, and everyone in the family will get excited about the wonderful new flavors and textures ahead.
Kids Often Have a Multi-Cultural Palate
Chances are that if you're traveling in Europe, the Middle East, Caribbean or a South American country, your children may already be eating some 'foreign' foods, or at least an adaptation of them. Point out how fish and chips, croissants, pasta, pita with hummus, tropical fruits, meat patties, beans and rice are already on your at-home menu. If they're not, visit the frozen foods aisle in your market and take home some of these tasty, kid-friendly international foods. Serve small portions and serve them often.
More fun, though, is to try to cook some international dishes that transcend cultures and are universally appealing to children. These dinner recipes for picky eaters may become "mom's best dish" and a staple at your dining table.
Develop Sophisticated Tastebuds with Recipes from Around the World
Popular tourist destinations in Europe and North America have a myriad of sophisticated cuisines and trying them is one of the best things about travel. With the help of the terrific site, AllRecipes.com, I've got some healthy recipes for typical foreign foods that are simple, fun to make with kids of any age, and good recipes for putting an end to fussy eating.
If you're going to France — the whole world's number 1 tourism destination — try Basic Crepes and start your kids off loving these super light pancakes.
For travelers to England, bake some Treacle Scones, a typical breakfast treat that's healthier than muffins, and serve them with tea, whipped cream and jam.
If you're going to Italy, make a Chicken Scarpariello dish for supper one night and you'll begin to appreciate the Italians' use of tomatoes and olive oil.
Before you say "hola!" to Mexico, visit the Mexican restauarant or taco truck in your town and sample some favorite dishes. If you like Enchiladas, it's fun to make them yourselves and see what goes into the basic Mexican flavors.
On almost any Caribbean island you'll be able to sample Tostones. These fried green banana snacks made from plantains are widely served like vegetables to accompany meat and fish dishes.
Our pediatrician liked to say he'd never seen a child who starved himself. Let that encourage you to try these recipes and have a foreign staycation at home before your actual vacation. Who knows, while spending time in the kitchen you may be raising the next Emeril Lagasse.
Photo courtesy Colorado Tribune, from their report on the need for nutritious kids meals.
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