Try, try and very trying

Apparently repetition works really well with children. Perhaps that’s the reason why I have to stand there and say “put your shoes on” multiple times – and with increasing volume – every single time we need to get ready to leave the house. But does repetition really work with food? We are told, often, to offer the kids an ingredient 6-10 times and eventually they will try it.

You can read all about food repetition at the ABC online, Better Health VICWestmead Hospital, School Canteens, Sixty second parent, Jackie French, PGR network, Australian bananas, Yoplait and Bubhub.

Zzzzzzzzzz. Sorry! Still with me? Yep, that’s right. 10 examples of people telling you how long to persevere in your quest to get the children eating their greens. Are they for real? Who, in their right minds, is masochistic enough to suffer the cruelties of dinner refusal 10 times?

When I hear “I don’t like it” for the first time, I will deal with it in an understanding way. I will revisit the recipe and adjust it in a way I think will be preferred the next time I cook it. The second time, I cross my fingers and if there is an outright refusal this time, then I’m done! Safe to say that that recipe will not get cooked again.

Try not to be too discouraged when this happens. While some recipes might not be right for your family, it doesn’t mean you have to skip an ingredient entirely. Switch to another recipe that smuggles the same target vegie and try that. Mushrooms might be rejected in a The best ever vegetarian lasagne but they might be devoured in Vegie slice.

I think the feed them 10 times advice is one of those myths like brushing your hair 100 times will make it shinier and using certain beauty products night and day for 3 months will make you more beautiful. NO ONE can keep up the commitment, so the myth is never really tested.

Anyhow, let’s save you all the trouble and just give you a recipe for this tuna pasta bake that gets devoured first time every time (and it cleverly disguises corn, zucchini and capsicum).

Tuna pasta bake recipe hiding corn, zucchini, carrot and capsicum

Aim for a hole in one with this tuna pasta bake recipe

Lulu’s favourite tuna pasta bake

Don’t skip the step of infusing the milk – it’s the crucial taste factor.

1 small brown onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
Small bunch herbs of your choice (parsley, thyme, rosemary)
3 cups milk
250g dried wholemeal pasta spirals
60g unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Splash of white wine (optional)
425g can tuna in springwater, drained
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 zucchini, grated
1 carrot, peeled, grated
½ red capsicum, deseeded, finely diced
1 cup grated cheese
2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180C.

Combine the onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, herbs and milk in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat immediately and leave to cool.

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water according to packet directions. Drain and set aside.

Pour the infused milk through a sieve into a jug (discard onion and herbs).

In a saucepan (non-stick is good), melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir for 1 minute until bubbling. Gradually add the infused milk and keep stirring the whole time to avoid lumps. Bring to the boil and thicken until the sauce sticks to the spoon (about the consistency of custard). Remove from the heat and mix in the mustard and wine (if using).

In a large bowl, mix the pasta, tuna and vegies together with the sauce. Spoon into a baking dish and top with the cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 25 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serve topped with parsley sprigs.


FOR THE ADULTS Kids can eat this on its own but adults like a nice leaf salad and – if you’re not carb-phobic – crusty bread (and white wine).

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    bentobitsaustralia said,

    Oh so true. I would be crushed getting rejected 10 times. However, I think it’s not about the dish, but about the ingredient. As you said, by the tenth time you might have found a dish that includes mushrooms that your little ones will actually eat. And once they get used to the taste of them, they might be more willing to try them in other dishes. But that doesn’t meant they will be willing to eat them by themselves.

    I believe that if an ingredient gets rejected a couple of times, I will move on to something else. I might try the first one again in a few months. But even if there are 10 vegetables they don’t eat, there are still dozens that they will eat.

    That doesn’t mean that I won’t use this ingredient. But I am prepared to have them pick it out. Like I often include avocado in our salads. My kids rarely eat it. So what? Every now and then they will try a small piece.

  2. 2

    Genaya said,

    As babies I always served my kids individual veges so they got used to the taste.
    Then as they have gotten older and developed their tastebuds, I have always asked then to eat just a small amount of whatever I have served e.g meat and veg….they may not have liked one of the veges but they have to eat 1-2 mouthfuls before they can move onto the rest of their meal. I have never gone out of my way to disguise any foods as I cook everything in a variety of different ways……it has worked wonderfully… they have never been really fussy eaters and now they eat absolutely everything.

  3. 3

    I agree Wendy. I was using my Taste Test Challenge with the Fussy Eater (try a food 10 times and get a reward) and it did work on some foods, but certainly not all. I’ve simply given up on capsicum with her, but now she eats cucumber thanks to the Challenge. So you win some, you loose some. There is no point making things more difficult for yourself, so your advice is spot on.

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