Hi. I’m Charlie. Now that I’m 12 years old, I often try new things without being told. Last year I tried jerk chicken in Jamaica, and it was amazing. Last summer I tried conch ceviche in Mexico and, even though it was a bit too limey for me, I felt relieved because at least I tried it and I could say I had eaten conch. But since little kids really don’t want to branch out and would rather just stick to cheese pizza and chocolate ice cream, here’s how to get younger kids to try new foods when they travel:
1. Take your kids to the grocery store in the foreign country. If your kid picks out the food himself, he’ll want to try it. We found chocolate yogurt at the supermarket in Spain, and we ate a lot of it.
2. Promise your kid a treat if he tries a food you want him to try. Tell him that if he tries a bite, you’ll get him something he really wants—like ice cream.
3. Relate the weird food to something that your kid likes at home. If he doesn’t want to try the food in Mexico, tell him it’s like Taco Bell. It’s actually much better than Taco Bell, but don’t say that to the child because then he won’t want to try it.
4. Tell your kid he won’t get another chance to try the food. He won’t be able to get that food anywhere else so, if he doesn’t try it now, he won’t be able to until the next time he goes to that country.
5. Have your kids cook the food themselves. Then they’ll want to eat it. At Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico we cooked dinner, and we ate all of it, including salsa and guacamole and fish with asparagus.
Our family rule was that the kids had to try everything. They did not need a full order, they did not need to eat all of it. They did not have to like it. They just had to try it.
Sushi, Escargots, Hummus, Tapas, and Dim Sum are now all favorites.
Now, in their teens & early 20’s, they are much less finicky than many of their friends, and they realize how much they would have been missing if they refused to be open minded and give something a try.
They now play the role of introducing new cuisines to friends, or even kids that they babysit (the number of kids that initially refuse to eat vegetables, anything green, or survive solely on buttered noodles is sadly staggering…)
Important Note: We also never made them try really funky stuff that we knew that they wouldn’t like, or made them eat something that we wouldn’t eat. Trust goes a long way. The more experience they have trying things, the less apprehensive they become.
That family rule has served us well. The only downside is that the kids will always call out “family rule” if I pass on sampling someone’s hot & sour soup (that might look to me like it has too much corn starch…)