How to Cook a Gourmet Meal for Kids

Kid-Friendly Gourmet Ingredients

Gradually exposing kids to new ingredients can get them excited about trying new foods. 
Gradually exposing kids to new ingredients can get them excited about trying new foods. 
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Definitions of "gourmet meal" differ. What one person considers a gourmet meal may be a very regular food in another person's diet. This is especially true with today's kids. According to analysis of the U.S. Census of 2000, the population of the United States has become more ethnically and racially diverse over the last half of the century, particularly in recent decades [source: Hobbs and Stopps]. This growing trend has caused some shifts in American food preferences that reflect this ethnic and racial diversity [source: Ballenger and Blaylock].

But getting kids to venture outside of the foods they're used to, even though choices might be more diverse, can still prove a challenge for parents.

"Kids like what is familiar to them," says Thayer. Since kids like what they know, you have to work at exposing kids to new foods over time. "You really have to be careful with introducing those foods gradually."

But don't think that exposure is just having the food appear at the dinner table -- or at least on the kid's plate. Seeing trusted adults eating the new food can encourage kids to want to try it. Taking your kids to the grocery store with you or encouraging them to pick out gourmet recipes with new ingredients can get your children excited about new foods. Another parenting tip for incorporating gourmet items is to grow them yourselves or pick them at a pick-your-own facility near your house [source: Krieger, Thayer].

Obviously, getting kids to try gourmet ingredients that you enjoy would be a great place to start, since the family can enjoy the items together. Some other great ideas include unique fruits and vegetables, such as kumquats, purple potatoes or even lychees, a fruit native to southern China. New grain ideas might be quinoa or tabouli [source: Krieger]. Parents can try "'clean' flavors, such as genuine maple syrup or real vanilla," says Nancy Berkoff, Ed.D., registered dietitian and member of the American Culinary Federation. "Stay away from complex or strong flavors" [source: Berkoff].

So how can you turn a Friday night fast-food staple into a gourmet meal?