Magic Words – Introducing New Foods to Children

Kids try spinach at the Cambridge Urban Gardening Initiative

Mlle Mushroom hands out “dragon tail leaves” with the Cambridge Urban Gardening Initiative after school program. Does anyone want seconds?

You’re probably all too familiar with the power of marketing to get people to want or not want things. Unfortunately, a lot of vegetables have received undeserved bad press. Kids who’ve never tried Brussels sprouts, lima beans, or spinach may already have an unfavorable impression of how these foods will taste. Liberate these delicious vegetables from their bad reputations by preparing them well and giving them a new name when introducing new foods to children. Fresh arrow-shaped spinach leaves are much more delicious as Dragon Tail leaves. Avocados are Alligator Pears. Of course you know the perennial favorite, celery with nut butter and raisins or Ants on a Log. Have you heard of Ninja Broccoli?

Let your child try things to determine their own names for foods. Encourage names that correspond to properties of the food. Then when you announce that you’re having (name kid came up with) for dinner, your child is more likely to be excited to eat it. This naming game can help create positive memories of sharing food. Adding this extra layer of reflection adds another dimension to the healthy eating experience, helping to secure its place in your child’s life.

Of course we are not advocating lying to your children. After a child accepts and enjoys a food by its made up name, feel free to disclose its original name. Who knows! Maybe your child will let the other kids know that spinach, it turns out, is not gross after all.

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