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Things you're surprised that kids eat

My oldest child is 2 1/2 and I work very hard to make sure he is exposed to a wide variety of foods so that he'll grow up appreciating food. While we fight the normal vegetable battles (and top them all with cheese to get them in him), I have also been pleasantly surprised at some of the meals he likes. Who would think a kid that young would like curry? So as I endevour to cook new and interesting foods for him that get him eating more than chicken nuggets, I'd love to know what you were surprised to find kids will eat in your experiences cooking for younger ones. Here's my list:
- Curry
- Anything with coconut milk
- Seared scallops and grilled shrimp
- Edamame

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  1. I'm not there, but what I have noticed is that what children will and won't eat will depend on where they're growing up. North American kids seem to be the least adventuresome while kids I've seen in France and Taiwan could go so far as being cannibals if they could do it.

    For the North American side, I have successfully fed children (toddler-size) the following "adult" items:

    rabbit liver and kidney
    foie gras
    uni (I was crying - it was my portion they were eating)
    duck magret and confit
    white asparagus
    bittermelon (surprised me too)

    1. Our next door neighbors (where we lived until a year ago :o[) were a young-ish couple with two young daughters .....12 and 10 at the time. The wife is one of the best cooks I've ever known and these girls were growing on on truly amazing and diverse foods.

      The younger daughter was celebrating a birthday and her mother (as she often did) said she'd make anything the young girl wanted for dinner. I was amazed to find out that her request was for 15 Boy Curry. WOW!

      1. Truly, I think it's about what they are exposed to. Children in New Delhi are not eating chicken nuggets, so eating curry is not odd. That's an over-simplification, but really the crux of the matter. You say "who would think"??? Most of the world wouldn't think.

        Dh is not American and we haven't raised dd in the US for her entire childhood so I may be coming from a different perspective...

        I will answer your question, though. I was truly surprised when dd loved duck tongue. Not because it was odd, but because it was such a damned salty dish!!

        1. When my younger brother was a toddler, he loved lemons (and would eat the peel if you didn't take it away from him) and hot salsa. He always got his own bowl for the salsa because he loved it so much he would dip the chip in, suck the salsa off, and repeat.

          1. Which nationality of curry? My kids LOVE japanese curry.
            Saag Paneer - any kid who likes cheese can usually be convinced to eat this to get the big cheese nuggets!
            Unagi, California Roll (admittedly they're spoiled and get the ones with real snow crab and not surimi), and Futomaki (our local sushi joint makes a great rendition of this)

            1 Reply
            1. re: FattyDumplin

              Also, anything with strong salty or sour flavors. My kids love to suck on lemons, use vinegar with XLB, etc. And anything that is fairly salty is easy to eat, I think because they used to get largely unseasoned food as babies / young toddlers.

            2. Bean sprouts, oysters, foie gras, chicken with a balsamic glaze for his birthday (too much Chopped!).

              1. I have to agree with the others who point out that "normal" kid food varies quite a bit around the world. You found it surprising that a toddler would eat scallops and shrimp. I grew up in a coastal town with a strong fishing industry and it would be shocking to find a toddler there who doesn't eat all kinds of seafood.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mpjmph

                  Agree that it is very much cultural. I have a great photo I took at a summer festival in Japan of two small kids delightedly gnawing away at their special treat of a whole grilled squid on a stick.

                  In Mexico there are loads of children's candies based on a mixture of sugar, chile powder and often sour tamarind.

                  1. re: mpad

                    When I had dinner at a Mexican friend's home recently, I was interested to find her 3-yr-old begging for hot chile powder on his slice of melon.

                2. my just turned 4 year old loves sushi and has loved since about 2.5yrs old. specifically ikura and any kind of nigiri like albacore, hamachi, hirame. i limit his intake of albacore due to mercury but we don't eat sushi all the time. i do make him sushi rice and dump ikura on top with seaweed as ikura donburi. i'm also torn bc they don't recommend sushi for kids under 5. however, we are cautious and you will never find him eating supermarket sushi. we only get the freshest fish.

                  i do think it's a cultural thing as i'm japanese and we eat japanese food at home often. when my mom and i eat sushi we talk about how great and delicious it is so there must be some sort of unconscious brainwashing that occurred.

                  he also enjoys kid food so i'm not one of those parents that insist my child has a mature palate as if it's some badge of honor ;) my sister did that with my nephew and now he's 10 and all he'll eat are burgers and hot dogs.

                  we have a friend who is 4 and loves raw onions. big and raw!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: trolley

                    Ha ha! I was also a raw onion lover as a kid. I wouldn't eat hotdogs without them!

                    1. re: trolley

                      My straight-up vanilla, blond haired, blue-eyed daughter is koo-koo for ikura. And she'll eat the nastiest, stinkiest cheese we can give her. But, like you, I'm not getting smug about how she has such a sophisticated palate. Even though my husband is a chef and I'm also in the food business. She still won't touch green salad with a ten foot pole and she doesn't really like sauces or anything too sweet. Strange child...

                    2. Kids' food attitudes and palates are partially innate, and partially based on exposure. I tried and loved everything as a kid - caviar, shellfish and seafood, anything pickled, anything spicy, every veggie. My brother, on the other hand, was much pickier, despite the same exposure. I hope my kids inherit my diverse palate!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: topbanana

                        yes, i forgot. sauerkraut. not the canned kind but the raw cultured kind i get at whole foods for a gazillion dollars. he always eats my sauerkraut off of my plate.

                      2. When my niece (who is now 3) was about 1 1/2, she picked up a "tree" off my plate and started to eat it. Now she asks for "trees" all the time. So cute... she has no idea that kids don't like broccoli!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          "kids don't like broccoli!"

                          I did not know that.

                          Mine did, and still do. But they have always liked all kinds of foods. To the OP, I've never been surprised at anything they've liked. Perhaps that's because their dad, their stepdad, and I have always been adventurous eaters, and the boys never knew they weren't 'supposed' to like certain foods..

                          1. re: jmcarthur8

                            Not all kids... I was trying to be a little funny. And my sister (her mother) does not like broccoli to this day.

                            1. re: jmcarthur8

                              I would guess that more kids like broccoli than most people who don't have kids or haven't worked with kids would think.

                              I worked as a cook in a daycare for a while and aside from the youngest babies who had some trouble chewing it, broccoli was definitely one of the favorite veggies - second only to green beans. Occasionally I would put some cheese on it, but generally just with a bit of salt and pepper and they would chow down on it - never any leftovers.

                            2. re: iluvcookies

                              funny, my kid, who is about 1.5 yo also, LOVES brocolli. just grabs it and munches away. but then again, he also loves boiled spinach and pretty much any other green you put in front of them. maybe the idea that kids don't like broccoli is just a myth and we didnt know it!

                            3. My kids had a Grandmother who was from Sicily. She would bring them teeny tiny sardines and smelts, that she had skinned and boned ever so carefully; each one roasted w/ olive oil in its own little packet. She'd bring sauteed spinach w/raisins and pine nuts, etc. and feed them in their high chairs.

                              They loved it. Until the day my son came home from kindergarten and announced he "hated" spinach and I looked at him as if he had grown a third eye. "What are you talking about?"
                              However, he was adamant and wouldn't touch any of the special "Grandma delicacies" for many, many years.

                              He had found out that his friends didn't eat the stuff he did, and that was that. No amount of coaxing, pleading, begging, threatening, worked.

                              He is 28 now and eats just about anything. Except dark meat chicken, his grandmother again in the oppostie direction. She filled his head with stories of nasty tendons and veins. She is scared to death of chickens.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: laliz

                                Sad to say, but this is probably very common. Food is such a powerful tool when it comes to influence. In younger people, the peer pressure can be overwhelming.

                                1. re: laliz

                                  I think this is a pretty common story where eating "normal" with your friends becomes really important. Food is a huge bonding experience, and not being able to bond with your friends/peers with food can be distressing for a kid in school. I remember many battles with my mom to come up with school lunches that were healthy according to my mom's dietician standards but would fit in amongst my friends eating lunchables and little debbies.

                                  I then got older and went back to eating all the weird things from my early childhood - but my elementary/middle school years of eating lunch at school was heavily shaped by what my friends were eating.

                                2. I'm amazed that my kids will eat just about anything. For a while there, the youngest would eat ONLY pb&j and pizza, but thankfully that has gone away. They are 15/13/11 so have grown out of the toddler food battle stage. I think part of it is the way we present "different" foods to the kids. If we put it out there as a completely regular / usual food, they will accept it that way. Yes...there ARE a couple of things they won't do (baked beans and Swiss cheese for example), but overall, anything goes - you name it.

                                  The funny thing is that they'll eat virtually anything hot or cold too, so leftovers are sometimes REALLY easy...just slap it on the plate!

                                  1. Not so much surprised as proud...I have a 2-year-old nephlet. My brother is a good cook, but has a limited repertoire of things he does (he is a creature of habit), and my sister-in-law is a bit of a picky eater. At the nephlet's birthday party - a picnic in a park - a batch of shrimp had been marinated and grilled especially for the birthday boy. The rest of us got burgers and hot dogs, and the toddler got shrimp.

                                    A few months before, they took me out to their favorite Greek family restaurant. Brother decided to order a dish that came with ratatouille, but asked me what it was before he ordered. Nephlet went to TOWN eating off of Dad's plate. I tried some - the kid had good taste.

                                    Only time will tell if he will still be this open-minded a couple of years from now, but I can't wait until he's big enough to come stay with his aunt for a weekend so I can feed him all kinds of delicious things he doesn't get at home. :D

                                    Same age, different year: I was babysitting another 2-year-old over the lunch hour. Since such agreements include free reign over leftovers in the fridge, I fixed myself some leftover stir-fry and doctored it up with some squirts of sriracha. My charge was intrigued by my food, and while he didn't have many words yet, was clearly begging for a taste. I fished out bits of veggies with none of the hot stuff for him, which he enjoyed before asking for more. I gave him a piece with the TINIEST spot of sriracha on it...and he LOVED it. I can't resist giving a toddler something nutritious that makes them so happy, so I gave him a few more bites. I gave him his first ring of fire, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

                                    1. peanut butter and jelly ( especially grape jelly) just disgusting.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Culture and upbringing plays a big part in how people feed their children. There are some rather extreme food issues in my family due because older family members on both sides of the family tree knew true hunger and deprivation as children and young adults. “Picky” simply was not tolerated. I have some very bad memories of mealtimes. (Good ones also.)

                                        Mr. CB and I were together a good, long time before we had a kiddo so we got to see the good, bad and the ugly when it came to seeing how our friends fed their children. One of the things we knew we would never do was “kid food” or special meals for him. We were also committed to not follow in our parents’ footsteps of being forced fed the way we were as children.

                                        The book Child of Mine Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter is excellent. I am so glad we read it prior to our son starting solids. The author writes a good bit about child development and how that impacts their eating habits as they move through their childhood years.

                                        We never did “kid food” and I am very pleased by the wide range of foods our son enjoys.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cleobeach

                                          Related to this, we never did "baby talk" with our daughter, and this remarkably quickened her language acquisition. It is amazing how well children develop when they are not treated like "children." Of course, she had plenty of Dr. Seuss books read to her during her first year.

                                        2. Some interesting perspectives on feeding children, but cultural norms aside, kids do have selective tastes and it's not easy to feed them healthy sometimes. My son goes to daycare and sits with 10 2-yr olds eating the same lunch each day; some eat everything, some eat only meat, some only vegetables, and some reject it outright. Food is one of the few things little kids have control over in their lives so they will assert that power when they want to. My husband and I both love broccoli and my son ate plenty of it when I made his babyfood, but depite all that he will not touch it now so I process it small and stir it into mac & cheese bakes so he can't avoid it. Anyway, made this recipe for the first time for him tonight and he ate it up: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ra...

                                          1. On a couple of occasions I've seen kids less than 8 eating boiled crawfish during season here in Houston. Crawfish are hugh on the dining seen here and most adults savor them.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                              When we visited NOLA with our twins last year, when they were not quite 7, my daughter discovered that she loved boiled crawfish. I even had to take her out for a special meal so she could get more.

                                              She also loves edamame, olives, and some other interesting stuff.

                                              Her brother is a noodles, yogurt, string cheese, ice cream, cereal, milk kind of guy.

                                            2. My son loves parmesan and Romano cheese. Around 2 years old he started sampling what I was grating and would end up trying to eat it all. I finally just started handing him small chunks whenever I used it. He's 6 now and we still have the same routine.

                                              I'm also surprised at how much he likes veggies as I despised most as a child. Artichokes are his favorite.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sebetti

                                                Parmesan has always been my secret weapon. Stick a little parmesan on virtually ANYTHING, and they love it!

                                              2. No, nothing really surprises me. I've seen kids eat just about everything. I believe it is a result of exposure, individual taste, age, body chemistry, hunger level, whimsy, and a big dollop of randomness. My kids, when younger, would gobble up things I never thought they'd like, turn up their noses at things they'd previously enjoyed, and suddenly decide X was their favorite after rejecting it for months.

                                                I've noticed that chows often attribute their kids' palates to their own parental actions and picky eaters to their parents errant ways. And sure, I believe that exposing kids at all ages (including prenatal) to a wide variety of foods is good. But for every sushi and curry noshing tyke, I can show you one who for weeks on end eats only chicken or noodles. Even if you're doing all the right things, your kid and can up and decide he isn't going to touch food X today. And, even more maddening, he can decide that what he loved last week is now absolute poison.

                                                My strategy to surviving mealtime is to unburden food choices from excess emotion, use a bit of reverse psychology (no sweetie, you don't want that steamed artichoke - its for grownups only), and change the meal time conversation away from the food itself.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                  Remember Calvin and Hobbes? All Calvin's mom had to do was tell him that dinner was toxic waste, and he was all over it.

                                                  I told my seafood hating young son once that he couldn't have the crab legs we were having for dinner because they were too expensive to feed to kids, and that I was fixing him something else. Guess who insisted he had to have crab legs for dinner?

                                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                    My teens love Calvin and Hobbes - the books are all over the house.

                                                    These days, I'm mainly a Zits fan:


                                                2. Tonight I made steaks for DH's birthday, and our step-daughter had a steak for the first time. She's 8.

                                                  DH and I decided to cook hers medium rare, how we enjoy ours. We let her know that if she wanted it cooked more, we would throw it back on.

                                                  I was nervous as she cut into it that she would freak out about the 'raw' meat. Her response: Cool! It's pink! Pink is my favorite color!

                                                  She ate the whole thing.

                                                  1. I have a 15 month old and have been taking a "as long as it's not a choking hazard" give him a bite philosophy to most all foods for the last 6 months of his life. My hope is that I'll end up with a chow kid, but I have to admit I've been surprised a few times.

                                                    I had given him spinach a few times and he refused it, but one night we were out with a friend at a Mediterranean restaurant and my friend ordered a spinach pie. My son, 11 months at the time, was unsurprisingly trying to grab everything off the table and my friend asked if she could give him a bit of the filling of her pie. I said yes, but braced myself for spitting. Instead he basically inhaled it. She gave him more, he sucked it down. I tried it and realized that the pie was the strongest garlic tasting dish I had ever had. Turned out, he just LOVED garlic and will eat any vegetables as long as I saute them with garlic first.

                                                    As a parent, I often read and was told that I should keep things bland for the first year or two, but I quickly realized that my son had much the same tastes my husband and I had. If we thought something was bland, he often did too. I was surprised to find that adding spice (although trying to avoid excess salt of course) made him more inclined to eat.

                                                    At 11 months he loved grilled shrimp. At 13 months he went to town on channa masala and saag paneer. And at 14 months, he had a fully spiced bite of my homemade black bean chipotle chili, with added jalapeno. The look on his face was hilarious, but he didn't spit it out and instead swallowed, considered it for a moment and then opened his mouth wide for more.

                                                    1. My 5-year old is frustratingly picky, but loves cured olives, grape leaves, and Middle Eastern dips like muhammara.

                                                      1. When I was about 6, I remember some peers enjoying the contents
                                                        of flashlight batteries. Really.