A: Good question! I wish I had a steadfast answer on how to ensure your child samples all foods even when you’re not watching. Alas, most children have a mind of their own when parents or adults are not around. Instead, I can offer you 3 pieces of advice to increase the likelihood of your child sampling all dishes and even embracing new food choices in your absence.
#1 - Establish a routine. You have to make sure that food sampling occurs routinely at home. When you have a new item on your at-home menu, encourage taste testing not just once but twice (and maybe even three times). When you are snacking on what you could consider an ‘adult’ snack, invite your child to taste test and share his/her reaction. You want to make sure that food sampling is open territory at all times.
#2 - Hey Mom and Dad, when you ask your children to taste a new food, are you doing the same? It is important to make sure that every new food you introduce is also accepted by you! Even if you don’t prefer to eat green beans, make sure your children do not know about your food preferences until they are able to forge their own opinions. This is the hard part, because most children don’t like many foods upon first taste sampling. Over time, though, their acceptance and taste preferences change, so it is important to keep your food thoughts to yourselves.
#3 - Don’t give up! If your child doesn’t like a food the first time, try two or even three more times. Don’t give up if your child doesn’t want to eat even a bite of his dinner. Remain positive and save his plate for later. Don’t give up if your child does not like the food even after the third time. Let it rest and try it again in a different form or in a different recipe. It is important to remember that developing healthy lifestyles can be arduous at times, and constant attention and optimism is needed during these crucial moments.
In the School Nutrition department, we aim to make each meal a positive learning experience by operating under the principle ‘offer vs. serve.’ We offer a set amount of entrees and sides each day, and allow the student to select preferences. This principle, coupled with nutrition education by cafeteria staff, is one of the tools we use to encourage children to taste new food. Also, new menu items are placed on our district menu at various times during the month. New menu items come in the form of new entrees, sides, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Breakfast and lunch are free of charge for all students who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals. For the paid students, breakfast is $0.90 in all schools, and lunch is $1.60 at the elementary level and $1.75 at the secondary level.
To share your good school meal experience or to learn more about school meals visit www.traytalk.org for more info!
See you in the cafeteria!
Christina Kepa, M.S. RD