Pro tips for picky eaters

by Brittany Gilbert

Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to participate in a “Cooking for Kids” class given by Josh Mills of Williams-Sonoma as a part of the 2014 Conway Symphony Orchestra Guild Designer House. Josh teaches cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma in Little Rock on a regular basis.

While he showcases the many tools and appliances available for sale at the store, he also demonstrates techniques and gives valuable information that anyone can use. During this class, the information was geared toward getting your kids to eat more healthy options as well as getting them involved in cooking.

Here are three main points Josh shared in his class:

Use what you have

In his demonstration of homemade ketchup, Josh was missing vinegar and a few spices that the recipe called for, so he improvised. He was more pleased with this version and said kids would probably enjoy it better because it was sweeter. Don’t give up on your meal just because of a missing ingredient — especially if it can be substituted or left out.

Josh’s demonstration showcased a lot of appliances from Williams-Sonoma. At our house, we don’t have an air-fryer to make homemade fries or an expensive juicer or spiralizer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the same things he made in his demonstration.

There are other methods that can be used with appliances you do have; it just may take a quick search on the Internet to find them.

Bring kids in to the kitchen

“Kids won’t eat things if they don’t know what it is,” Josh said during his class. “They also have an aversion to green.” For these reasons, it can be difficult to get kids to eat healthy food options. Therefore, get the kids involved in the cooking process. Obviously, older kids can be entrusted with more responsibility. Depending on their age, ideas include chopping, using appliances, stirring ingredients, etc. Sometimes just inviting your smaller children to watch you prepare meals will make them feel more involved and more willing to try food that they helped with.

Our oldest son is just 3, but he is more likely to eat a scrambled egg if I let him pick the egg out of the carton and help mix it before putting it in the skillet. This step may make meal preparation take a little longer but is an important part of intentional parenting. It’s an opportunity to teach your children about food, health and get them to try new things.

Make it fun

A part of parenting is requiring your children to try new foods. Once they get used to certain foods, though, it can be difficult to coerce them to branch out. Josh convinced us that cookie cutters are for more than just cookies. He used them to spruce up chicken. I know our son is much more likely to eat a new food if it’s in the shape of something fun.