Today marks day 1 of my intentional plan to get beets to be an accepted food at home. Beets are one of those foods my husband and I love, but we rarely have it in the home for some reason. It’s likely because they are so messy so the thought of having to peel and cook beets with red stains on my hands and counter top just seems to much for me to handle thinking about when I’m contemplating buying them at the grocery store. But when I saw these peeled and cooked beets from LoveBeets at my local Costco, it got me thinking about how this would be a perfect way to make them a more regular occurrence at home. I knew my kids weren’t a fan of them, but also knew that they just hadn’t been exposed to them enough times for me to say they truly didn’t like them.
On another note, I’ve been asked frequently over the past few weeks about how to encourage kids to try a food without necessarily saying “take a bite”. I’ve written before about some ways you can bypass this phrase and encourage interaction and exposure to a food at the dinner table using other phrases (here), but I wanted to show parents how you also use different cooking methods and exposure via activities OUTSIDE of the dinner table to encourage food tasting. The key is in generating enough curiosity and familiarity on all levels (touching, smelling, licking, etc.) – not just biting or eating a food.
I wanted to start with a recipe that was familiar to them and non-threatening, so I chose to begin with using beets in a smoothie. I knew they would find this exciting to make, look at, and taste, as I’ve seen a variation of this recipe before and myself was fascinated by the bright colour that the smoothie turns with the red beets added. Smoothies are a great way to mask ingredients amongst other flavours, and you can ease them into the taste of the new ingredient by adding in small quantities at first and gradually increasing it over time once they are comfortable with the thought of eating it.
Alright – let’s get to the recipe, procedure and their reactions – shall we?
I started off by letting the kids know in the morning that in the afternoon we were going to be making a new smoothie recipe and I wanted them to help. When the time came to make the smoothie, my youngest wasn’t wanting to help, but I told him that this is a planned activity of my choice and I would really need his help because it was a new recipe.
We began reading the instructions I wrote out for them and they gathered the ingredients. Here they are below:
1/2 cup ice
1 cup cow’s milk or almond milk
1 tbsp. hemp seeds
1 medium sized beet
1 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
2-3 tbsp. honey
Here were their initial reactions:
I opened up the package of beets and immediately their comments were: “Oh the smell!”, “It’s smells disgusting!”. I continued to press on and ignored the comments. I licked the juice that felt on the cutting board and said “it tastes sweeter than I expected”. Naturally, they were curious and tasted as well. Thomas didn’t like it. Jonah wanted to copy his brother and say he didn’t like it, but instead said “hmmm”. I could tell he liked it more but didn’t want to admit it just yet. I asked them each to tell me what it smells like, tastes like and feels like. They each approached the beets and touched it with their pointer finger quickly and released. I asked them to cut through it with a knife and see if they could determine the texture of the inside that way. They each did so and declared it to be “soft” with no other comment.
We began to assemble the ingredients into the blender. When it came time for the hemp seeds (another food I’m working on them accepting better), I asked them again to tell me what it smells like. Thomas (who has had more exposure to hemp seeds than Jonah) said it smelled plain… then said it smelled sweet. I could tell he was overall neutral on this food. When it was Jonah’s turn, he said “smells like barf” (insert eye-roll here). I knew that he was being dramatic and didn’t really think it smelled like that. I took a deep breath and I asked him to be serious for one second and actually tell me what it smells like. He revised his answer and said it smelled “plain” as well, followed by…”I don’t like plain” (insert another eye-roll here). I responded by saying, “Hmm.. I’m assuming that since it’s plain smelling that you probably can’t taste it in a smoothie!”. They both agreed.
Moving on…they each poured the remaining ingredients into the blender, and “oohed” and “ahhed” as they watched how it turned pink. I asked them “What ingredient do you think made it that pink?”. “The beets!” they responded. Tthey remembered the facts I told them about how it stains hands, clothes, and everything pink.
Taste test time.
They LOVED it!
They said they could taste a bit of the beets but it was good because it wasn’t strong. Excellent. Exposure #1 complete.
Key take aways: Get them curious about the process of cooking or making a recipe, and get them experienced with describing flavours, textures and other meaningful characteristics of a food. Sometimes they talk themselves in and out of liking something, but with a little direction and reasoning on your end, they see that sometimes what they like or don’t like is just a frame of mind! Also, move tasting activities away from the dinner table and as part of general family activities. Kids usually approach with less apprehension about tasting the food if it’s built into a hand-on activity versus presented as dinner to eat.
I let them know that next week we would be making beet tattoos and beet chips together so we can experiment with other ways to use beets. Read about part two of this post here!
BUT FIRST, let me know – do your kids like beets? How do you offer it to them? Post in the comments below!