Food Explorer Passport

foodpassport1.jpgToday, April offers a cool idea to inspire kids to try new foods:

My daughter has interesting tastes in food. She is my child in so many ways, but in the food adventure sort of way, not so much. I was dying to try everything as a child...just because. I wanted to try it all, and I often did. My daughter? Well, she has her favorites and she'd like to stick to them, thankyouverymuch. Luckily for us, her favorite foods are black beans, broccoli, and pasta. Not a bad triad of vitamins, protein and fiber. But try to get an apple in the girl? A grape? A suspect vegetable? It all produces a gag reflex that upsets the stomach of everyone around. Even the promise of a treat for sampling everything on her plate cannot tempt her. She'll decide to go without.
I do subscribe to the theory that food should not be a battle. There is no way to win that and I think it might set up a rather unhealthy relationship with food. Plus, I have some unhappy food allergies and I know that her rejection might be caused by an unnoticed, low-grade allergic reaction. So, no forcing. But encouraging is fair play, and I play sneaky.

We also travel a lot, and my daughter loves it. She loves her passport and she loves how the people at the airport stamp it. So, we made one just for meals. We call it her "Food Explorer Passport" and she gets a sticker "stamp" for trying any new food, or any food that she is wary of. On our latest trip to southern Spain, she willingly scarfed down unfamiliar Spanish foods and helped me put the stickers in her "passport" to prove it. Next to the stickers, I wrote out what foods she tried. She was beaming with pride and very willing to give things a go, although not everything. Some dishes weren't worth a sticker, she decided, and that's OK.

Since returning home, she's stuck with the idea and will happily take a taste of many foods that are merely in the "suspicious" category. Any that she dreads don't merit the effort yet, apparently. That's OK with us, because she's upped her intake of new flavors by quite a lot, and that's really something for our broccoli-pasta-beans girl.

Here's how we made our Food Explorer Passport:

I bought a 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" Moleskine cahier pack. They are thin, saddle-stitched notebooks that come in a pack of three instead of the thick traditional notebook. They come in ruled, grid, or plain. (I chose grid because, well, that's what the store had in stock when I got the idea.) It's very similar in size and thickness to a real passport. I bought silverware stickers and globe stickers and I arranged them on the cover (with my daughter's help) to look like a place setting. All you need after that is a collection of stickers to fill the book, a pen, and food to try. I'm generally liberal with stickers and I don't begrudge extras, especially for trying patatas bravas.