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Condiments: The Gateway Drug of Foods

I’ve been reading a ton recently on different approaches to feeding our kids. There are so many theories out there about the best ways to introduce new foods, the best ways to encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, and the best ways to help selective/picky eaters to overcome their challenges with foods. It can be a bit overwhelming if you are struggling and looking for answers. So I want to share one trick that I have used time and time again with my kids that has helped. Now, this is not a cure all, but it might be a little something to add to your toolbox, no matter what issue you are dealing with. The trick is: condiments.


Now when we think condiments our minds immediately go to ketchup, mayo, and mustard, which are fine, although should probably be used sparingly due to added sugars, etc., but what I’m talking about here is condiments in the wider sense. I mean the oils, vinegars, grated cheeses, spices, pickles, and sauces. These are things that I often have on the table at dinner so that my kids can make their meal their own. This allows them to gain some control over what they are eating, it can make it fun, and it can help them to mask some of the flavors they might not be crazy about.

When I offer these, I try as much as possible to truly let them have the control and do it themselves. This gives them a sense of independence and excitement about making their food. I do have to confess, though, that when it comes to salt I often have a hand hovering over to swoop it out of the way when it gets to be too much.

Here are some ways that they have used condiments in recent meals:

  • Parmesan cheese on almost anything—roasted or sautéed vegetables, pastas, meat, etc.
  • Paprika on vegetables, risottos, stews, soups
  • Soy sauce (extra) on stir fry
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinegar on salads, veggies, potatoes, and meat.
  • Oregano on pastas and pizzas
  • Cinnamon on yogurt, waffles, and pancakes
  • Salt and pepper on almost anything.

So next time your little one starts to dig in his or her heels about the food on the table, before you get to the tension, deal making, begging, pleading, cajoling, and insisting, try light-heartedly offering some toppings to experiment with.

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