Why travel can help your picky eater break their habit
theAsianparent have partnered with Holiday Inn® to inspire your next family adventure. Check out some tips on how you can get your little ones excited to try out new foods and be adventurous with their palates. You'll see that picky eaters and travel can go hand-in-hand after all!
Dealing with a picky eater is not pleasant for parents or children. There’s a lot of stress involved for both parties, and if this fussiness with food is not dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner, it could become a habit that is impossible to break.
If you are parents of a picky eater, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to tell you about an ingenious method of encouraging your fussy little one to try new food and actually enjoy it!
Travel provides kids with numerous and exciting opportunities to broaden their palates via new exciting tastes, fragrances and textures. It encourages kids to step out of their comfort zone with food in a fun way that is not defined by monotonous meal-time routines and tastes.
If fussy little eaters see trying new foods in exotic locations as an adventure, they’re much more likely to eat something new!
One great foodie destination for people of all ages is India! Although some kids might choose to avoid really spicy curries, you will be amazed by just how many dishes in Indian cuisine they will love.
Come with us on a delicious journey to Chennai, Goa and New Delhi, and experience the flavours and aromas of the incredible range of cuisines each city has to offer.
South Indian cuisine – such as that found in Chennai – is best known for its intricate spicy flavours, usually with more than a hint of chilli.
Rice is one of the staples of the food here, and curries often have a creamy coconut milk base. The flavours are marvellous in their complexity, and are in fact based on the following different ‘tastes’: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent.
The beauty of this cuisine lies in its diversity. So, among the fiery dishes, you’ll also find others that are very mild on the palate and will be enjoyed by kids who are not spice fans.
One way of enticing a fussy eater to try new foods is to give them something different with just a hint of familiarity. Idli is perfect in this sense! These light, fluffy discs are made of steamed rice batter and then drizzled in a tangy and delicious coconut chutney.
If your child is used to eating mostly or only rice-based dishes, tell them that idli is still rice, but just in a different shape! You could also try arranging the chutney in ‘eye, nose and mouth’ blobs on the idli to make a happy face.
Another dish your little ones will enjoy is dosa. This paper-thin crispy pancake is made from fermented rice flour and can be rolled up, and stuffed with any filling your little one likes.
Ask your child to choose their own dosa filling. By doing this, you are giving your child autonomy over their meal, and this in turn will encourage them to eat the dosa, because they helped create it!
Sometimes, dosas are presented in shapes such as a triangle or cone. This gives you the perfect opportunity to teach younger kids about shapes. But also, its out-of-the-box food presentation will visually grab your child’s attention, and pique their interest in tasting it.
Perhaps you could entice your picky eater with the South Indian version of the popular Indian sweet, payasam? This milky treat is made sweet with jaggery and creamy coconut milk. Texture is added with the addition of rice, vermicelli or even chopped fruit (for a quick vitamin boost!).
For your kid, the most enjoyable part of South Indian food will probably be that it’s eaten with the hands! Little ones love any excuse to get messy, which in itself will encourage them to eat. At the same time, the tactile sensation your child gets from eating in this manner forms a crucial part of the overall South Indian food experience.
If your child is not a huge fan of seafood in general, the best place to convince them to try it is in the gorgeous Indian coastal state of Goa.
Influence from its Portuguese colonial past can still be seen today in Goan architecture, and even more so at the dinner table! Also, unlike in other Indian regions, Goans are mostly Catholic and do not avoid eating beef like the Hindu majority of the country.
A common dish you’ll find on a Goan dinner table is fish curry. Not your regular Indian curry, these versions favour Portuguese spices, vinegar and chilli. The addition of coconut milk rounds out the flavours, and helps soften the chilli-kick.
A mild fish curry your child will enjoy is ‘fish caldine’, one of Goa’s most popular dishes. Made with thick, creamy coconut milk and a touch of mustard and spices, this curry is perfect for fussy little tummies.
For something completely different, try ordering chouriço for breakfast. This Portuguese sausage has a slightly peppery taste and is perfectly paired with eggs, grilled tomatoes and coffee for you (warm milk for the kids, please!).
End one (or all!) of your Goan meals with the delectable dessert that is known as ‘bebinca’. This smooth, buttery layered cake has an unusual pudding-like texture and is flavoured with the subtle taste of nutmeg. How can even the fussiest of little eaters turn down this delightful treat? Tell your child to try counting the layers of the cake, for an added dimension of fun and learning!
‘Indian food’ as known to travellers from around the world is probably best depicted by the rich, aromatic dishes of North India, of which Delhi is the capital.
North Indian cuisines have strong Central-Asian influences in contrast to the dishes of the south and east, and offer a huge variety for vegetarians, meat lovers, and – you guessed it – fussy little eaters!
Here you’ll find meals dominated by spicy meat curries and dishes (such as Mutton Roghan Josh, and Chicken Biryani, just to name two well-known dishes), plenty of vegetarian dishes and different types of bread, including tandoori naan (baked in earthen ovens called tandoors) and rotis (flat bread).
When it comes to tantalising your fussy eater’s taste buds, you can’t go wrong with the famous and ever-popular butter chicken! Legend has it that this accidental dish was created when the chef at a restaurant known as Moti Mahal absent-mindedly tossed some tandoori chicken with a tomato and butter sauce. Lo and behold, a new classic was born!
In Delhi, you can still visit that same restaurant, located in Daryaganj. While your kids are tucking into their butter chicken and warm naan, don’t forget to tell them the story of how it originated. Linking a story to a dish is, in fact, a clever way of getting children interested in their food!
Another really good food choice for picky eaters, also found all over the streets of New Delhi, is their street food. These snacks are a great option for hard-to-please little palates because they are bite-sized and kids can choose what they want to eat.
An added element of interest to the street food experience is that little ones see how their meal is being prepared, and also smell the various fragrances wafting around. A holistic and memorable food experience indeed!
A must-try and very popular street food option is chaat. We recommend that you visit the revered Chandni Chowk, often referred to by locals and travellers as the home of the best chaat in the city.
What is chaat, for those of you who don’t know? It’s a mouthwatering snack – a mix of bread, potatoes and chickpeas, which are combined and deep-fried until golden-brown and are highly aromatic! These snacks are then covered with generous dollops of chilli sauce, tamarind sauce and yoghurt. If your kids are not fans of chilli, ask for the sauce to be omitted.
A variation of chaat is known as pani puri. These delicate, golden-brown shells are actually puris fried crisp, and filled with a mix of flavoured water, potato, chickpeas and chutney.
Dare your child to pop the whole pani puri in their mouth without spilling anything, in a fun game that will also have them gobble down the treat in order to ‘win’. Don’t forget to snap a picture of your little one attempting this feat!
Finally, round up your family’s North Indian food experience with some sugary delights. We recommend the ever popular and oh-so-sweet gulab jamun – small, dumpling-like balls made from a cheesy dough. They are served submerged in a sweet, delicately spiced syrup. Just don’t let your kids eat these before bedtime if you want to prevent them from bouncing off the walls in a sugar-induced frenzy!
Mums and dads, as our gastronomic journey through India comes to an end, you now know how both you and your children can learn and bond through the flavours, textures and aromas of different cuisines.
Don’t let your child’s picky eating habits deter you from travelling. Instead, use travel as a clever tool to introduce your children to new foods and experiences. Tell your little ones stories about the foods they try. Snap pictures of them trying exciting cuisines. And once you do, we promise that you will never fight another meal-time battle again!
This article was brought to you by Holiday Inn®. Plan your next family adventure with travel tips at www.LittleBigTravellers.com. At 1,200 Holiday Inn® Hotels and Holiday Inn Resorts®, kids 12 and under stay and eat for free. Discover the Joy of Travel with Holiday Inn® today.