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Kids & Cheese: The Picky Eater Problem

Baby cries while being fed from a spoon

In this blog series, Erica discusses ways introducing 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, Erica will explore expert advice, nutrition facts, and a world of recipes with the goal of making cheeses of all kinds accessible to kids. So follow along and try some of the tips in these post to see if we can get your child from string cheese-lover to stinky cheese-lover. 

When you love cheese, it’s hard not to share your passion with the rest of the world. Both cooking and eating food can be a bonding experience, and that bond can strengthen when you discover that a friend or family member shares your love for the same snack. So naturally, it can be frustrating when your child simply refuses to indulge in the deliciousness that you love. 

Young children are notorious for being picky eaters. In fact, parents across the United States are turning to picky-eater coaches to transform their child’s palate from selective to sophisticated. Their services aren’t cheap, either; coaches can often broaden the horizons of most young picky eaters for a $400 fee. Fortunately, there are less drastic – and less expensive – measures parents can take.

Why are some kids picky? According to this article from The Wall Street Journal, kids have more taste buds than adults, resulting in a more intense sense of taste and a tendency to shy away from bitterness and toward sweetness. Caroline Kaufman, MS RD, asserts that while novelty is a reason for kids to dislike new foods, it can also be texture and taste. Your kid may love firm chunks of cheddar, but gooey bites of brie? That’s a whole different story. 

This sort of selective eating worries parents. And for good reason. Catering to a very picky eater not makes it hard to cook one meal that will satisfy the whole family, but it can also – in extreme cases – mean a restricted diet missing some of the diverse nutrients a growing child needs. According to an article by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, picky eaters tend to have a less diverse diet that can lead to nutritional gaps. You know how good cheese tastes, but turns out, it has some nutritional benefits for your kids, too. We’ll delve into that next week. 

As a parent (and cheese lover), it’s your job to encourage and entertain a sense of adventure in your child. Introducing a food over and over again may be the key to making scary “novel” foods more familiar and less alarming. According to a study published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, children often don’t begin to enjoy a food out of their comfort zone until they’ve been exposed to it eight to fifteen separate times. We’ll talk about some fun ways to introduce – and re-introduce –  your child to novel cheeses later on in this blog series.

Tara Roscioli, a food coach based in New Jersey, recommends getting your children involved in food preparation as a fun way of diversifying their palates. After all, in many homes, the kitchen isn’t just where you cook, it’s the heart of the home. It’s where dinners are made and eaten, homework is done, and days are planned. Encourage kids to spend time in your cooking space, whether it be with a plate of after-school cheese on the counter or with word magnets on the refrigerator. And as he or she gets older, giving a picky eater responsibilities in the kitchen can not only be a way to introduce useful life skills, but also a way to introduce new foods in a comfortable setting. 

Do you have a picky-eater child? If so, how have you dealt with it so far? Share your picky eater stories with us in the comments below and get the chance to win a free copy of our summer issue. It’s packed with kid-friendly stuff like mozzarella and cheesy ice cream recipes that your adult taste buds will love, too. and, at the end of this series, one lucky commenter will receive a cheesy grand prize. Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, 6/12/2014 to be eligible to win. So comment today and stay tuned for next week’s post!

Erica Mixon

Erica Mixon is an editorial intern at Culture. Mixon is also the arts editor of Emerson College's student-run newspaper, the Berkeley Beacon, and editor in chief of an upcoming human resources blog, HRTalentManagement. While Erica is not editing or writing, she enjoys spending time in her hometown of Ogunquit, Maine.

4 thoughts on “Kids & Cheese: The Picky Eater Problem”

  1. Avatar SICA says:

    Once upon a time as a child, I threw a fit so epic about pickles on my hamburger that my sister and brother-in-law still tell this story to this day (27 years later!)… I’m still not a very big fan of pickles. However, cheese I have always loved.

  2. Avatar Mary says:

    I am very lucky that my son has not been a picky eater at all – I am an adventurous eater and my husband is very picky so I wasn’t sure what we would get with the baby! He loves every fruit or vegetable we put in front of him, but nothing excites him as much as cheese – he can say cheese, but does not yet say mama! We are not the milk drinkers in our house so cheese is a good way for him to get some dairy. He likes string cheese (I am hoping to get a mozzarella making kit soon to try and make it homemade!), cottage cheese (for breakfast with fruit), and shredded cheddar and Gouda (to work on picking up pieces and feed himself). He also eats feta and goat cheese with the same excitement – more than I can say for my husband!

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