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picky eater? Think of condiments as “training wheels”

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in Blog Posts | 13 comments

I saw these recently while eating at an aquarium cafe, and it made me chuckle. Some days I think these would have been handy for our kitchen table. Parents often express fear of ketchup or dip. Primarily, I hear them say they are afraid their children will “get used” to ketchup with everything and won’t learn to eat foods plain.

In my home, we allow free use of ketchup (and let me tell you that giant pump bottle would have been nice at times)  and often had Ranch, or home-made honey-ginger dressings.

Think of ketchup and dips like “training wheels,” you won’t have a teenager pouring ketchup on rice, or corn on the cob (these were my childhood faves…) If you are an adult picky eater, you too can find a favorite sauce to expand your options. BBQ sauce? Hot sauce?

Why do condiments help?

• the familiar flavor can be a bridge to new foods
• for foods like meats, which are tough for small children, dips like ketchup can add moisture and make the foods easier to manage
• a study showed that some sweetness helped kids like vegetables more, and another study with grapefruit juice showed that kids who had a little sugar on the first introduction actually liked the plain juice more readily than children who had not gotten a sweetened version to begin with (so the myth of the sugar limiting variety is just that, a myth…)

So, don’t be afraid of condiments. Even when  my little one makes pink mashed potatoes with her ketchup, or makes a salad that is totally doused in Ranch, or licks my honey-ginger dressing off her fingers, it’s OK.

Have you seen the magic of condiments? What are your favorites? (I love Heniz salad cream too, I go in jags with that one, haven’t had it in years!) For our friends overseas, HP sauce? Lisano? Veggiemite? 🙂


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  1. Michellers

    My mother-in-law, who is currently staying with us through T-day, puts mayo on everything, either plain or mixed with ketchup which she calls thousand island dressing. I literally have to stock up on mayo before she gets here or she freaks out a little. Hey, whatever floats your boat, I say.

    Strangely at 44 I just discovered that a) I prefer french fries without ketchup and b) that I don’t actually like french fries all that much. So much for that forbidden food that I’ve been restricting for years….

    Happy Thanksgiving, all you Americans out there!

    • katja

      Love it! I bet she likes that you don’t comment… I also love your discoveries about food. It’s never too late to be curious!

  2. KellyK

    I personally think that if it makes a kid happy to put ketchup on everything, let them put ketchup on everything. Most of us did the same thing as kids, and you do grow out of it. I mean, I’m not still dipping my steak in ketchup, though that was required when I was a kid. (Come to think of it, part of that may have been toughness…between cheaper cuts of meat and my mom liking her steak more well-done than I do now.)

    Also, like Natasha said, French cuisine is big on sauces. So are lots of others. Soy sauce, peanut sauce, salsa, tzatziki, etc. Would the adult who’s worried about a kid getting used to ketchup eat their chicken wings without hot sauce or their shrimp without cocktail sauce?

    I think some of our definitions of “grown-up” versus “childish” as far as condiments are arbitrary too. Putting A1 or a balsamic reduction on your steak isn’t really different from using ketchup, when you get right down to it.

  3. Kirsten

    I have no problems with sauces, dips, or dressings. I will not eat a salad without dressing, fwiw.

    If a kids is DRINKING ketchup or suave/dressing from the bottlle or eating it (with nothing else) with a spoon, then yes, that may be a problem, but using it to make foods palatable? Not so much.

    I worked at a bakery a couple of years ago, and a mother and son came in for lunch. She got a salad roll with chicken and mayo. He wanted a meat pie, but she insisted he had either a salad roll or a veggie pastie. He chose the pastie. He also wanted tomato sauce (Aussie version of ketchup, not to be confused with tomato puree which is the Aussie version of tomato sauce in the US….but I digress) Mom said flat out no. Son flat out refused to eat his All because he could have one little squeezey pack of sauce. Her reasoning was that he’d wreck a perfectly health meal. I didn’t bother to tell her that the tomato sauce would have probably been the only thing close to healthy on his plate if shed let him have it. At least the sauce would have had licopene and beta carotene. The pastie? A lot of simple carbs, saturated fat, and a salt. Oh and a little bit of veggie mixed in with the bread filler.

    The most ridiculous part was that while she was vehemenently against a pack of sauce, she was all too happy for him to have **GASP!!!** a regular can of Coke. Which he downed quickly, because he was probably rumbly in the tumbly. Hey, I enjoy a Coke myself on occasion, but if basing a decision on “healthy” and i had to choose between the lesser of two evils, I’d go with the sauce and pastie over just a can of Coke.

    All hail the sauce, dip and dressing isle, I say!

  4. Natasha

    Speaking of eating foods “plain” – French cuisine is all about the sauce, and many other dishes are great because of the spice or flavoring that is added. Why shouldn’t kids eat foods with added flavoring? Or adults for that matter. Maybe some picky eaters actually don’t like plain foods (pure speculation here). I recently rediscovered egg salad when a friend made it with added mustard, which made the formerly “bland” dish more enjoyable. I do draw the line at MSG and purely chemical flavoring, though it can be hard to avoid sometimes.

    • katja

      Bravo! As the sauce queen, living with a sauce princess, I agree! My easy favorite is pan searing a protein, and then deglazing the pan with a 3:1 maple syrup to dijon mix. Yummo! M and I both could practically drink it!

      • KellyK

        That sounds delicious. I’m going to have to try it.

        My husband makes a really good rosemary cream sauce. (Technically I guess it’s a gravy.) Deglaze the pan with wine or cream sherry, add milk or cream, rosemary, and some flour to thicken it.

  5. Jenny Islander

    Ketchup does indeed make some foods easier to handle for tiny eaters. My husband and I looked around for a brand that most resembled homemade ketchup (Hunt’s corn syrup free variety FWIW) and we allow it freely. Our only rule is that the kids cannot attempt to fill up on ketchup alone because they will develop sore bottoms if they eat that much of it!