Tips for Getting Children to Eat Cultured Foods
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that they wish to nourish their children. Just about all parents agree: healthy children start with healthy foods.
Cultured foods are at the top of that “must eat” list. Unfortunately, it can be difficult sometimes to convince our little ones to chomp down on them at every meal. Indeed, most children would turn their noses up at sauerkraut or plain kefir.
If you are expecting a child or have a little eater already, then don’t despair. You might want to consider these tips for getting your children to enjoy cultured foods.
Start Them Early
Many mothers despair of the dinner hour because all their children want to eat is mac & cheese, sweets, or “white” foods. This isn’t because children are incapable of liking more exotic foods. It is because many children are only exposed to bland starchy, salty, or sweet foods.
Traditionally people enjoyed all sorts of flavors, from the very bitter to the very sour to the very sweet. It is this dynamic in tastes that make certain cuisines, like Thai, so intriguing. Unfortunately the Standard American Diet (SAD) does not put forth those bitter, sour, or spicy flavors in most meals.
But if children are exposed to them from an early age then that is what they will know and come to prefer. Instead of having a palate that is one-dimensional they will be able to appreciate and enjoy tangy sauerkraut, tart plain yogurt, and bubbly kombucha.
Moderate the Sweets
While some cultured foods can be sweet, like kombucha or sourdough desserts, all fermented foods have an aspect of tang to them. As stated above, children are much more likely to turn their noses up to this tang when they are used to receiving a lot of sweet foods.
So it is a good idea, especially in those first few months of solid foods, to keep the sweet flavors to a minimum. For very young children very little sweetener is even necessary. Even fruits can be moderated so that your child can learn to enjoy everything from broccoli to sauerkraut instead of just bananas.
Be Their Cultured Role Model
Let’s face it; children pick up on hypocrisy pretty quickly. If they see you turning your nose up at kefir or only choosing sweet foods rather than the tangy cultured ones, they aren’t going to want to listen to you when you tell them to eat their cultures.
The best thing parents can do is to transform their own diets first. If you are new to cultured foods yourself and are just having to choke them down then wait until you can fully enjoy them to introduce them to your own children. Then you can share in the flavors and life-giving qualities of these foods without having to play pretend.
Various Child-Friendly Cultured Foods
If you are starting with very small children it is probably best not to try to appeal to them with “child-friendly” foods. Give them exactly what you would serve an adult: a plop of sauerkraut or a glass of kefir.
If you are trying to convert older children away from their old eating habits and into cultured foods then you may have to get a bit more creative. One thing to consider is that many of the foods we eat today are just cheap, unhealthy imitations of traditionally cultured foods.
So, with the following ideas, you can simply give them cultured versions of their favorite foods.
Instead of Soda Try Water Kefir. Water kefir is bubbly, slightly sweet, and full of minerals and probiotics. You can make various flavors from cream soda to all varieties of fruit flavorings.
Instead of Processed Sweets Try Sprouted or Sourdough Desserts. Most sweets are just way too sweet. By cutting back on the sweeteners, using natural sweeteners, and opting for a sprouted or soured recipe you can keep a child's sugar intake to a minimum while still allowing occasional treats. Click here for some recipe ideas.
Instead of Commercial Pickles Try Lacto-Fermented Pickles. This is a very simple swap that they may not even notice. Put them on a burger or sandwich and see if they can even tell the difference. Click here for an easy pickle recipe.
Instead of Baby Carrots Give Them Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks. Not only is this a very child-friendly fermented vegetable, but it is also one of the easiest ferments to make. Click here to learn to make the carrot sticks.
Supply Them With Kefir Cream Cheese Dips and Spreads. Almost any child will tell you how great dip is. So why not make a cultured version substituting kefir or yogurt cheese for the sour cream, cream cheese, or mayo? Or, if they have to have fruit-flavored cream cheese with a bagel in the morning mix kefir or yogurt cheese with finely chopped fruit and lightly sweeten with honey.
Make a Cultured “Milk Shake”. Every child loves ice cream. You can make kefir ice cream if you want, or if you don’t have an ice cream maker make a cultured milk shake. Simply combine kefir with milk, frozen fruit, or ice cubes, and yummy add-ins like cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or peanut butter.
If these cultured foods don’t get them hooked then just give them time and keep encouraging them, by example, to dive into cultured foods head first.
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