New: Baby and Toddler Taste Training Plans!

Baby Taste Training Plan Sign UpSo excited to be letting you know about these new Taste Training Plans!

In response to popular demand, I’ve created these short plans which help you teach your child to learn to love new foods. Based on my new book Getting to Yum, the plans provide you with easy, tasty recipes that will expand your baby’s palate (and maybe even your own!), Top Tips, Games, Coloring Sheets, plus a personalized Taste Training Graduation Certificate at the end!

Sign Up: And click here to find out more about the baby or toddler plans.

Toddler Taste Training Plan Sign Up Button Final

Learn More: Find out more about Taste Training here, and the amazing Science of Taste Training here. And check out the happy family testimonials.

Give Back: The proceeds will go to help food education programs in schools (we’re currently supporting the amazing Project Chef in Vancouver), and low-income families can access the plans for free upon referral from a paediatrician or hospital. Proud to be giving back to the #foodiekids community!

 

Five Time-Saving Cooking Tips for Busy Parents

If you’re like me, life is busy. In the past, it often seemed like I was cooking in a hurry. I’d end up cooking my ‘fall back’ dishes, which meant we’d eat the same few dishes regularly. This wasn’t great for many reasons: limited variety means less nutritional diversity. And everyone got a bit bored with the same food (even me!).

When I streamlined my approach to the kitchen, it helped a lot. Here are some tips for busy parents: practical ideas that I have found really useful.

1. Plan ahead. Make vegetable soups on the weekend and freeze them; they are very quick to heat up for a meal. There are lots of great simple soup recipes in my new book (Getting to Yum); most take less than 10 minutes to make a large amount.

2. Cook once, eat twice. If you are making a time-consuming dish, make two batches, and refrigerate or freeze one for eating another day.

3. Use a slow-cooker (or “crock pot”): it will slowly cook a stew during the day – and you’ll have a delicious meal waiting at dinner-time.

4. Don’t cook every meal. Once a week, eat an “at-home picnic” with simple foods that don’t require much cooking. When we do this, we eat chopped vegetables with dips, simple salads, nice breads, cold meats, and sliced fruit. You can prepare many of these in advance and quickly serve them when you get home.

5. Delegate by asking your children to help with cooking! Most children over the age of 7 can chop and stir. They also love to eat the food that they have cooked themselves, so this is a great way to get them eating healthy food while saving you time. Younger children can do other tasks like put away cutlery, set the table, or fold napkins. They’ll have a great sense of accomplishment.

What are some of the strategies you use to save time in the kitchen?

Five top tips for picky eaters

Picky eater at home? You’re not alone! Try these tips to help your child conquer picky eating.

1. Ask children to taste everything you’ve prepared, even if they don’t eat it. Research shows that children need to taste a new food, on average, 7 to 12 times before they will accept it. Looking isn’t enough — they have to taste! Positive peer pressure (particularly from other children) works wonders when it’s time for “taste testing” new foods.

2. Don’t label your child a ‘picky eater.’ Instead, tell your child they’re a ‘learning eater’ (just like ‘learning readers). Try telling your children: “You’ll like that when you’re a bit more grown up.” Expect kids to develop a wider palate and — eventually — they will.

3. Introduce your child to new foods before you serve them. Sounds silly, but often works wonders. For example, show your child a raw beet: let them touch it, and smell it. Cut it open, and let them look at the intense colour. Then try a variety of ways of introducing beets to your family. Beet popsicles are a family favourite, as is beet salad!

4. Stick with a schedule (and limit snacks to one–or at most two–per day). Once they know snacks are limited, kids will automatically adjust and eat more at mealtimes. If kids know that they can fill up on snacks, they’ll tend to be fussier at meals. Once you set your new routine, stick to it!

5. Talk less about health, and more about good tastes. Say: “Taste this, it’s really yummy”, rather than “Eat this: it’s good for you.” Believe (and tell your kids), that good-for-you foods taste good. Healthy eating habits are a happy byproduct. Broccoli? Yum!

 

New book: Getting to Yum will be published this week!

So thrilled that my new book is coming out this week! I’ve spent two years doing research on amazing recipes, tips, and games, and working with ‘test families’ to make sure that the recipes are “kid-approved”! You can read some of their testimonials here.

I’m also excited (but nervous) to let you know that I’m creating a social enterprise in association with the book! I’ve set up a new website (gettingtoyum.com), on which I’ll be offering Taste Training Plans for kids of all ages, starting with toddlers. Proceeds will go to support organizations working on food education for children. Please check it out – I’d love your thoughts!

Flier Getting to Yum - new book

The Montessori Method of Eating

Mira and kidsAfter reading French Kids Eat Everything, Mira reached out to me by email. We shared so many ideas in common! She ended up being one of the ‘test families’ for my new book. I’ve been inspired by her reflections on similarities between the Montessori philosophy and the French approach to food education. Thanks Mira!

My family was one of the test families of Karen Le Billon’s cookbook Getting to Yum, and as we’ve worked through the recipes, I’ve been reflecting on the similarities between “French eating” and Montessori education, especially the approach to food. My daughter attended a Montessori preschool, and I’m currently writing a dissertation on the parent communities at two urban public Montessori schools in Connecticut. So while Karen calls these ideas “French”, they’re similar to techniques practiced at 21,000 Montessori schools worldwide.

Here are some of the main ideas I’ve taken from both of Karen’s books and the Montessori schools I’ve observed.

Create a beautiful and peaceful environment for eating

Children at Montessori schools generally eat in their classrooms, allowing them to skip the noisy school cafeteria. But this isn’t scrunched eating at your desk. In many schools I’ve observed, the room is transformed at lunchtime, and students play an integral role in the set-up and clean-up rituals, gaining ownership over their meals. I’ve watched a preschool class of boys spend half an hour setting the table for their classmates, figuring out how to work cooperatively in creating elaborate arrangements and rearrangements of the plates and silverware.

Children can learn to use breakable materials

Like the French preschools profiled in French Kids Eat Everything, in the Montessori schools I’ve observed, children eat off real plates and glass cups with metal silverware using cloth napkins. Montessori students also practice pouring exercises in a progression of different pitchers until 2 and 3 year olds are able to pour on their own and serve themselves snack. We did this exercise at home with my two year old and he can now mostly pour on his own.

Even young children can learn to treat breakable objects with respect. With some guidance and careful observation, children learn to gauge the weight of glass cups and learn how to properly put them down on the table. I especially like inexpensive small Ikea glasses – some will get broken in the learning process! But in the long run, children can skip things like “sippy cups” and plastic plates all together in favor of real (although child-sized) tableware.

When we empower young children to handle real materials carefully, we create a foundation of care and responsibility that will last a lifetime. Your child will eventually want to drive your car! Start by giving them independence using smaller objects like glasses and plates.

Montessori utensils organizationCleaning up is part of daily education

Spills are a normal part of the school day – when they occur, children learn to wipe them up. Children are expected to learn to serve food and pour for themselves in a Montessori classroom. (Teachers prefer uncarpeted floors for ease of cleanup.)

When children spill, instead of getting angry, I’ve heard a Montessori teacher say, “I see lots of water on the floor. What do we need to do when we spill?” The child gets a rag and begins cleaning up and the teacher helps. “Do you see more water on the ground? Let’s get it!” Similarly, when my children spill at the table, I hand them a rag and we wipe it up together. And then I think about putting less water in a cup or a pitcher next time.

Through this process, children learn it’s natural and normal to make mistakes. This process helps cultivate experimentation and self-esteem.

Observing and Adapting
One of the hallmarks of Montessori education is careful observation (without getting mad!) and adapting the environment as necessary. So here are a couple of observations from my own kitchen:

Kids cooking in the kitchenInclude the Children in Food Preparation

I’ve learned that the best way to get dinner cooked is not to send children to the living room to play with their toys, but ask them to get involved. For my two year old, that might be washing some Tupperware in the sink or pushing the salad spinner, and my 6 year old has started to peel and slice the cucumbers. Sara Cotner’s cookbook Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes that Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way (http://www.amazon.com/Kids-Kitchen-Independence-Confidence-Montessori/dp/1477542043) gives more suggestions for including children as young as 18 months in cooking.

Put vegetables first

My toddler will make a beeline for the pasta and throw a fit if you ask him to eat vegetables. So
I’ve learned to put vegetables out first without other choices. He won’t eat much that’s green at the moment, but will enthusiastically eat a plate of cucumbers while we prepare dinner.

Though I didn’t do food in courses before, I’ve observed that he is most likely to eat pureed soup if there is nothing else on the table to distract him. Similarly, I keep trying and trying again to offer him new foods. One day he was suddenly willing to bite into an apple. After hating citrus fruits forever, another day he started peeling clementines. Next hopefully he will start to eat them!

Find a school that supports good eating
Much of the credit for my children’s evolving eating habits is due to the fact that they’ve been able to attend a wonderful childcare program in Hamden, CT called Alphabet Academy which has a pioneering meal program under the direction of master Chef Kim Kim. The menu changes weekly and each meal is served family style at child size tables with real plates and silverware. Alphabet Academy also tested recipes from Karen’s cookbook, and discovered that the children’s absolute favorite was…Spinach and Salmon Lasagna. Surprised? We all were too.

Breaking it down
The Montessori approach can be done with any task, and involves breaking the task down into a series of manageable steps. Similarly, Karen’s approach to eating in Getting to Yum offers a step-by-step technique for creating a palate by moving from simple pureed soups to more complicated iterations of a particular vegetable or fruit. The philosophy, whether French or Montessori, is clear – all children, with preparation and practice, can become happy and healthy eaters.