In this blog series, Erica discusses ways to introduce children to the diverse flavors of cheese. Starting with the challenges of new and unfamiliar cheeses on a young palate and moving through ways to make try new foods fun, she will explore expert advice, nutrition facts, and a world of recipes with the goal of making cheeses of all kinds accessible to kids. Last week, we discussed kid-friendly DIY recipes with cheese. Follow along and try some of the tips in these posts to see if we can get your child from string cheese lover to stinky cheese lover, and comment below for your chance to win a free issue of culture or a cheesy giveaway!
Are your kids begging for strong, stinky cheese yet? Are they touting the names of expensive French cheeses and raving about the best cheeses to pair with apple juice? Even if they haven’t reached the French-name-touting stage, hopefully by the time they start school they can tell their classmates a thing or two about tasting and appreciating cheese. Let’s recap what we’ve learned throughout this blog series, and remember the best tips on improving your child’s taste buds.
In the first installment of the series, we explored the problem of picky eaters. Apparently, it’s gotten to be such a huge problem in the United States that some parents are turning to food coaches in order to solve it. We don’t think that you need to reach those measures – with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of patience, your child will open up to new experiences with food.
It may take eight to fifteen separate times of introducing a new food to your child before they start to accept it, so be patient, and try to make the process as fun as possible. Cook with your kids and get them involved – the experience will cut down your prep time and serve as bonding time for you and your little ones.
As if you needed another reason to love cheese, it can provide some great health benefits for children. Picky eaters are prone to nutritional gaps, but cheese has natural fats that can help with a healthy way to gain weight, and also offers many vitamins and minerals such as bone-building calcium and magnesium. Conversely, cheese paired with vegetables is a snack that is proven to reduce a child’s caloric consumption, so it can be used as a weight loss tool, too.
If you want your introduce your child to new, stronger cheeses, you can take a couple of routes. If your kid is one of those picky eaters we’ve talked about, be stealthy about it. Instead of making grilled cheese with tried-and-true American, sneak in some Gruyère or Emmentaler. Or mix their favorite cheese with another stronger, yet still meltable type in a panini or grilled cheese.
But if your child is already is familiar with and likes the basics, you may be able to introduce them to stronger cheeses more easily. For example, if they’re into fresh cheeses like mozzarella, they probably won’t be opposed to other fresh cheeses, like chèvre. If they like fresh goat cheese, you can even have them tried aged goat, like Humboldt Fog and Le Chevrot (in fact, these can sometimes be more mild than traditional fresh chèvre, and therefore be more kid-friendly). Blue cheese can be intimidating for kids, but you can even find some good blue cheese for beginners that children might not shy away from immediately.
Back-to-school season is fast approaching, and packed lunches provide an easy opportunity for you to expand your child’s palate. A great way for you to do this is to incorporate fine cheeses into meals that your child already knows and loves. For example, a homemade version of the ever-popular Lunchables are sure to be a hit, as well as a classic grilled cheese. Prevent hot a sandwich from becoming soggy by letting it cool completely before packing it, then wrapping it in tinfoil. In no time, your child will be looking forward to their midday lunch break.
Another great way to get your kids involved in your love of cheese is to host a casual fondue family night. What better way to get your little ones to eat their veggies than to dunk them in melted cheese? Encourage kids to help in the prep work – tots to tweens help with things like can washing veggies, while teenagers can slice and dice. For kids with sophisticated palates, stick with a traditional recipe that uses Emmentaler or Gruyère. For pickier eaters, you can substitute stronger cheeses with a something milder, like havarti.
Travelling with your kids can be challenging, but with the right snacks back-of-the-seat kicking and shouts of “are we there yet?” can be avoided. Pack snacks that give your kids something to do – for example, string cheese for to peel apart; or crackers, sausage, and cheese to make mini sandwiches with. Where to go? This time of year, the Vermont Cheese Trail offers some beautiful sights to see and wonderful cheese to taste. And kids will love petting the farm animals and watching the cheese being made.
Engage kids even further by including them in a fun night of cooking recipes. Not only will it be a bonding activity, but it might even entice youngsters to be more adventurous in their cheesy endeavors. Put a spin on classic recipes – instead of pizza and grilled cheese, make grilled naan pizzas or grilled cheese roll ups. Your kids will love the change, and they’ll eat up their servings of cheese as though it’s an adventure, not a process – and that’s what we’ve been aiming for all along, isn’t it?
So, now that you’ve explored and expanded your children’s cheese world with this blog series, open up your favorite bottle of wine and pair it with some quality cheese – after focusing so much on cheese for other, you deserve some for yourself!
Have you used any of these tips with your kids? Have they worked? Share your story with us in the comments below and you could win a copy of culture, or this back-to-school giveaway from Wisconsin Milk Marketing Association. With the first day of school quickly approaching, it’s important to keep your kids’ packed lunch cool. This lunch bag from Wisconsin Cheese will ensure that all of the delicious cheese you’ve packed for your little ones stays fresh. Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 15, 2014 to be eligible to win.
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