In early January, DNO Produce’s Alex DiNovo wrote a column for The Packer about how he introduces new produce items to his kids.
I found it fun and inspiring — not because I have children, but because I have nephews, nieces, and lots of friends with young kids of their own, and food often comes up in conversation.
My mom takes care of a 17-month-old toddler three mornings a week and he usually eats breakfast with us. His parents love cooking and trying new foods, so fruits and vegetables are a normal part of his home diet as well as at our breakfast table.
Dates, blueberries or bananas are a typical part of his breakfast routine, but a couple of weeks ago, when I was eating my own breakfast, I thought I’d introduce him to two of my winter favorites — grapefruit and kumquats.
As little Noah sat on my lap I ate a bite of grapefruit, and then a bite of a kumquat, and told him a little about each. Then I (very carefully) let him try them both, too.
I grew up topping my grapefruit with sugar to combat the tart taste, but nowadays I think they’re plenty sweet on their own, so I wondered if Noah would pull a pucker-face and spit his bite out. To my surprise (and delight), he loved it and asked for more.
After another taste or two of grapefruit I tried out the kumquat. Many adults I know don’t like these tiny tart fruits at all, so I thought the baby might not be keen on them, either. But he happily chomped his small piece right down. And looked around for more.
At breakfast this week he discovered he likes pummelo, too.
As Noah is too young still for us to have a detailed conversation about his food likes and dislikes, I don’t want to read too much into his reactions, but I have to think that one of the simplest ways to introduce new fruits and vegetables to kids — especially little kids — is to let them see you eat and enjoy the items yourself. That can go a long way to “normalize” the new food and make it seem not so strange or unusual.
And sometimes kids can surprise you with what they know about or consider normal. When one of my nieces was about two, I helped her fill her plate during a baked potato dinner, and I explained what each topping was as we passed through the line.
“Would you like some avocado?” I asked when we reached a dish of the mashed fruit.
“That’s not avocado,” she told me matter-of-factly. “That’s huacamole!”
And she asked for some on her potato.
Amelia Freidline is The Packer’s designer and copy chief. E-mail her at [email protected].