Imagine if someone handed you a food you were unfamiliar with and said, "Here! It's good. Eat it." Would you? Or would you pause and ask "What does it taste like?"
We use our previous experiences with food to provide context and expectation for our new experiences. Doing this helps us feel more comfortable trying something new. When we know it will taste "crisp and salty with a hint of lemon" or "sweet and creamy" it's easier for us to prepare for that first bite.
Now imagine that you are your 5 year old who is still exploring the world of food and language. Someone hands you baked eggplant which, let's be honest, looks a little dodgy, and says "Here's dinner. Eat up. It's good for you." What would your response be?
Yeah. Mine too.
Describing New Foods Can Help
But there is something you can do: start talking to you kids about their foods. Talk to them about the ones that they like and the ones they don't! Give them language to describe the tastes and textures and smells of the food they encounter so the next time you want to give baked eggplant they have a frame of reference.
Talking to them about food also helps build their vocabulary, helps make value connections between different regions of their brains, and helps encourage mindful eating because they are really tasting the food.
Here are some of our favorite examples.
Temperature: Icy, Lukewarm, Tepid, Roasting, Steaming
Texture: Crisp, Crunchy, Chewy, Chunky, Gritty, Gummy, Fluffy, Runny, Silky, Sticky, Tender
Taste: Acidic, Bland, Fiery, Flavorful, Ripe, Salty, Sharp, Sugary, Tart, Tangy, Zesty
Smell: Aromatic, Pungent, Odorless, Overpowering
Comparisons: Buttery, Citrusy, Earthy, Garlic, Herbal, Milky, Minty, Peppery
Be a Role Model ... and a More Mindful Eater
As a family, have fun experimenting with these descriptive terms by trying foods that are new to everyone. You can be a role model for your kids by trying something that is new to you. Or, even better, something that you are pretty sure you don't like! Then use it as a way to talk about what you are experiencing. Letting your kids see YOU practice this will give them confidence.
As you practice using these descriptive words with your kids, you might find that you become a more mindful eater yourself (because you're suddenly paying attention to the difference between 'zesty' and 'zingy').
PS- special thanks to Dina Rose, It's Not About Nutrition, for the original list. If you aren't familiar with her site, you MUST check it out!