Want to avoid raising picky eaters? According to chef Andrew Zimmern, it's totally possible.
The "Bizarre Foods" host tells us he hears this question from parents a dozen times a day: How do I get my kids interested in healthy food?
1. Introduce The Food Early + Often
Andrew believes that children are genetically predisposed to eat everything, so as long as the food is introduced early and often, there shouldn't be any food they don't like.
2. Don't Offer Substitutes
But, "you can't offer substitutes," he says. Other than that, by cooking fresh, whole foods that are seasoned the right way, you can pretty much guarantee your children will eat the food, he says.
3. Pay Attention To The Way You Talk About Food
Another piece of advice from the chef and father?
"Parents have to take on a responsibility to not talk about food in a negative way. Children absorb opinioned information from their caregivers and parents and people around them starting at about 5 months old," he says.
4. Cook More — And Let Your Kids Help Make Decisions
Andrew is also a strong advocate for cooking more — and cooking together.
"It's a great way to spend time with our families. As time impoverished as we are, if we have to make room for one thing, it's for families to share more time together in the kitchen and at the dining room table, not less," he continues.
Including your children in the decision making helps them take ownership of the food. When Andrew is cooking for his son, they'll pick out ingredients together — Andrew will ask his son to choose carrots or celery, onions or leeks, red peppers or zucchini and so on.
"The more you let them choose and help you in the kitchen, the more ownership they take and the greater the odds are they're going to eat the meal," he says.
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So, what's the quickest healthy meal a parent can whip up in a time crunch and on a budget?
The simplest thing in the whole world, in Andrew's opinion, is a skillet supper.
He says you can easily incorporate vegetables, a carb and lean protein in a way that everyone will love, without using a box.
Andrew shares a basic recipe that can be applied to any kind of protein and/or vegetables:
- Start with a protein: chicken, tofu, whatever you like
- Cut into 1-inch cubes and saute in a 12-inch skillet
- Add cut up vegetables and stir until nicely seared
- Add 1 - 1½ cups of rice or orzo and 2 cups of stock
- Stick a lid on, let it cook for 20 minutes, season and serve
And speaking of picky eaters, is there anything to this day that Andrew hasn't been convinced to eat?
While he says he's tried everything, he reveals the surprising dish he just doesn't enjoy.
"I won't eat hot oatmeal," Andrew says. "Oatmeal belongs in cookies!"