Cheese is an ideal vehicle for introducing kids to new foods.

I know I’ve come across as critical of cheese.  In my last post, How Much Cheese Should You Eat, I argued that since cheese is the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet we should teach our kids to eat cheese from time-to-time and only in small quantities.

Then, yesterday in my Psychology Today post I compared cheese to chips. Yes, I actually compared cheese to potato chips. Don’t worry, I didn’t argue that chips are healthier than cheese, but I think you’ll be surprised by the results of the comparison. Instead, I argued that people should use cheese like they use chips.  Read Cheese vs. Chips.

But now I’m here to say that you can use cheese to teach your kids to eat new foods.

The ooey-gooey goodness of cheese makes it appealing to kids.

There’s no disputing the fact that most children (at least most children in America) like cheese.  It’s bland (at least the kind we give to kids is), it has great mouth feel (thanks to all that fat!) and it goes well with pasta.

Cheese has familiarity and likability going for it so you can use it as a bridge to unfamiliar (and potentially unlikable?) foods. That’s the rationale behind advice to use cheese as a bridge to vegetables:

  • Kids don’t like vegetables.
  • Kids do like cheese.
  • Kids will like vegetables with cheese because they’ll focus on, and taste, the cheese.

But I think there is another, better way to use cheese.

Take your child to the cheese shop.

Most towns have cheese shops these days, but if yours doesn’t, consider the cheese section of the grocery store.

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of cheese. So why stick your kids with bland, boring cheese sticks?  Branch out. Try Brie, Gouda and even stinky Stilton.  (In fact, if you’ve got that kind of kid, stinky is superior!)

Explore. Extol. Explain.

The best thing about using cheese to introduce new foods is that it’s easy to do it right.

It takes a lot of guts to try new foods and it’s the expectation of having to actually eat whatever new-fangled food is being served up that turns so many kids off.

We say, “Just take a bite,” but the pile on the plate speaks louder.

Tell kids they only have to taste the new food and most children are game. Read Why Some Kids Should Spit.

In a cheese shop you taste, but don’t eat, the cheese.  In other words, the challenge is doable.

Use the experience of trying new cheese as a bridge to trying new foods.

Instead of using the actual cheese as a bridge, use the positive, low-key experience as the bridge:

  • Fun outing.
  • Preferred food.
  • Small samples.
  • No expectations of actually eating.

Want another single-food way to introduce new foods? Read The Magic of Yogurt.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~