5 benefits of raising adventurous eaters

Many families get into mealtime ruts. As parents juggle work and school schedules, the grocery list can end up on auto-play: chicken on Monday, tacos on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday – you get the idea. But it’s worth the effort to try to break out of the dinner comfort zone now and again. Why? You get to expand the whole family’s tastebuds, and you may introduce some new healthy options, too.

Here are 5 reasons why it pays to work new foods into your mealtime rotation.

1. New foods can introduce new cultures

Sampling foods from other countries exposes your family to new flavors. That, in turn, can spark great mealtime discussion about other cultures. There are often health perks to eating foods from different parts of the world too. Fermented foods like kimchi, a Korean-style fermented cabbage, can give your immune system a boost by slowing down inflammation.1 And borscht, a soup common in Eastern Europe, is loaded with heart-healthy, vitamin-rich beets.2

2. Different tastes may help you eat more mindfully

When you’re trying a dish that you haven’t tasted before, it’s an opportunity to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re eating. It’s also a chance to slow down speed-eaters: Ask them to use all their senses as they eat. How do the foods on the plate look, smell and taste? Are they sweet or sour or salty? Helping your family eat more mindfully can help them recognize feelings of fullness and avoid overeating.3

3. You may find new healthy favorites

If the old standbys are getting boring, try something more adventurous. Load up the family fruit bowl this week with guava, mangoes or papaya. Or switch up lunch meals by skipping the PB&J in favor of tofu spring rolls or hummus and veggies. The benefits? You’ll add more color and variety to your family’s meals and snacks, which is better for your overall health.4 And you can tempt your picky eaters to try foods served up in new ways. For instance, if your kids aren’t fans of steamed carrots or plain tofu, try a quick-pickled carrot slaw inside a tofu spring roll.

4. You may streamline your cooking time

Lots of parents may find themselves cooking multiple dishes to accommodate their kids’ various tastes. When you encourage the family to try new foods together, it’s easier to streamline dinner prep. And if you don’t feel like cooking, go out and explore new foods or get takeout. Your local Thai or Japanese restaurant are good starting places.

5. Meal planning may become more fun

With a crew of adventurous eaters, meal planning turns into a family activity. Put a world map on the wall and stick a pin in the location a new recipe came from, for instance. Then add up the different countries or states you’ve sampled food from at the end of the month. Take turns picking a new-to-everyone main course or side dish every Friday. Consider pairing your meal with background music from the same country too.

Adventurous eating can mean healthier eating and more family bonding. As you explore new foods, your kids may find new foods they love and expand their palate.

This article is part of UnitedHealthcare’s 7-Day Healthy Eating Challenge. For an entire week, you'll find new ideas that encourage every member of your household to get involved. Eating nutritious meals – and teaching kids about the importance of healthy foods – is a key to overall health, both now and in years to come.

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