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trader joe’s faves and assuming kids will be picky

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 in Blog Posts | 12 comments

We went to Trader Joe’s today. M asked me to go with her to try a sample. It was tri-colored chips with salsa. She approached the table, and before she even said anything, the lady said, “Would you just like some plain white chips, Sweetie?”

So, M hadn’t said anything, was excited to try the food and she was told off. The opposite of the expectation of mastery. The expectation of pickyness and the lowered expectation. (Like all the childrens’ menus in the US it seems. It simply reinforces the cultural myth that kids are only capable of liking fried foods and carbs- of course many kids prefer carbs, but not giving any other options sends the parents and the kids a message…) So today, I stepped in, and handed her the little pre-made plate without comment. She tried all the chips and loved the salsa (which was surprisingly sweet, yet with no added sugar-still don’t know how they did it.)

Anyway, it reminded me of a few tips:

• Never assume a child won’t like something. I once remember M wanting to eat raw brussels sprouts, and I started to say, “We don’t eat them r…” but bit my tongue.  She ate 3 raw ones and a few ones I cooked too. Consider serving a little bowl of whatever veggies you cook with dinner, but put some raw on the table. Also, watch those preconceived notions. My little one liked spicy pickles and even cocktail onions (thanks Gramma!) Artichokes are a treat. I think she likes pulling the leaves and dipping them in balsamic. Try to include some of your old grown-up favorites next time you eat dinner. Enjoy them yourselves, don’t goad, pressure or push and see if your children are curious…
• Have an expectation of mastery. Offer foods in a neutral way. Kids are naturally curious about new foods. All the prodding and praise can slow that process down. The curiosity might not mean a taste and swallow this time, but someday it likely will.
• Avoid labeling or describing a child as “picky.” They will live up to that reputation.
• Kids like something one day, and refuse it the next. That is normal. Just keep serving what you want them to learn to like (with a few items they generally like.) Avoid rationalizing, explaining, pressuring. For example, M has liked salsa in the past, but had gone off it recently. I did not say, “Yes, try it M, be a big girl, you liked it before!”

Other things I like from Trader Joe’s

• dried strawberries (I think they are gross, but M likes them with snacks)
• blue corn tortilla chips. They are simply my fave blue corn chips, or any chip right now.
• dark-chocolate covered pretzels
• Cambozola cheese, WITH the blue corn chips. Heaven!
• the butter croissants were pretty good. (M loved them one time, didn’t like them the next. Again, go figure!) I also thought they must have been fresher and better the first time.
• Ritter-Sport dark chocolate with hazelnuts.
• the Tuscan melon, and whatever other organic berries are on sale. (I do tend to do the dirty dozen organic…)
• pear tart
• dried mango
• pecan raisin bread
(but, their Spanikopita aren’t that hot, or the frozen green beans, or the mini-quiches…)

What are your Trader Joe’s favorites? What was a hit, what was a miss?

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  1. Jess

    ITA! It drives me nuts how people assume kids only want PBJ on white or chicken fingers. My four year old son recently realized that at most places the kids menu is not as interesting as the rest of the menu– now we either order an adult entree for him or he shares with us (given that most restaurant portion sizes are so huge, this usually works fine). He actually said the other day, “Yeah, I’ll just eat the same as you guys.” Also, on our recent flights he has been served a kid’s meal or kid’s snack and ended up trading with his Dad.

    The other night I asked him, “Should we have pasta with tomato sauce or anchovy pasta tonight? You can decide.” Without hesitation he said, “Anchovy pasta!”

    Meanwhile, today at lunch I gave my 6 month old mashed squash and carrot that had been sauteed in olive oil with spring garlic. I consider this to be the beginning of the education of her palate…

  2. Natasha

    I have to second the pear tart – it is divine! My 1-year old enjoys the Thai gyoza potstickers (I cut off the really crispy side and slice them up to make it easier, as she is now with 3 teeth at 14 months), the creamy polenta dish, polenta provencale, and the sweet potato gnocchi in the freezer section. She also loves soycotash (lovely mix with soybeans, corn and bits of red pepper), and as many others – the peas and corn. As an easy and fast dinner staple when I’m rushing to get something on the table after work, I love the premade refrigerated dishes they have – turkey meatballs, chicken marsala, and lasagna bolognese – just add a veggie side or some pasta, and a delicious dinner is ready! Yes, we generally are big fans of TJs…

  3. Elizabeth

    I had a similar moment to your brussels sprouts one – my daughter wanted to eat raw cranberries. I almost didn’t let her but then I did and she probably ate half a cup of them! She likes a lot of extremely sour foods in fact, including pickled/fermented foods. Tonight I gave her authentic Creole gumbo even though my parents assured me it would be too spicy for her. I just told her it can help to eat a bit of rice, drink some water, etc. if it’s spicy and she did, and loved it.

  4. Kahla Jourdan

    We especially love TJ’s frozen peas, the potstickers in most flavors, the cheeses (and how can they sell Boursin $3 cheaper than every other store? I understand when it’s their TJ brand, but that isn’t…), the dried fruits, and the nuts. Oh, and the turkey meatballs earned a spot in our freezer this winter too…When we were there last time they were sampling their mini ice cream cone treats….what a nice size treat for a little one! It fit in her hand nicely, and was a nice portion.

  5. lyorn

    The Irish Breakfast tea. I still ask for it when a friends visits the States and ask what they should bring me. What no one can bring on a transatlantic flight, unfortunately, is the maple syrup full fat yoghurt from Trader Joe’s. I also liked the breads a lot when I was in the US. They had great bagles with everything and some kind of nut/raisin/banana rolls which I had for breakfast most days.

    Ritter Sport: Do they have the Espresso one in the US? Together with Dark Whole Milk (the medium blue bar) it’s my favourite.

    IME kids like food the stranger the better, though the usually go for sweeter tastes than most adults.

    • Twistie

      Yes, Lyorn, I’ve had the Ritter Sport Espresso bars here, and I love them almost as hard as the hazelnut. Chocolate and strong coffee… what’s not to love? Well, for me, anyway!

  6. Twistie

    When my brothers and I were kids, Mom would ask us every year what we wanted to eat on our birthdays. I invariably chose fish, potatoes, and spinach with something in dark chocolate for dessert. My brother the alpaca rancher changed it up a little more than that, but always wanted Brussels sprouts. According to common wisdom about children, we both should have hated those things. Nope, those were our faves.

    Trader Joe is a happy-making place for me. I’m wild for their cheese doodles. So cheesy and crunchy, yum.

    There are several things they carry that Mr. Twistie and I always keep in the house for last minute food ideas, quick lunches, etc. Their chicken chili makes a great quick cold weather dinner, and their pot stickers are always in our freezer. Those Ritter Sport dark chocolate hazelnut bars are my fave chocolate treat yet. Nearly every other chocolate/hazelnut goodie on the market is milk chocolate, but I prefer bittersweet, so Ritter Sport gets a big thumbs up from me!

    I also like to prowl the aisles and try out new goodies I haven’t had before. It’s fun to play in the cheeses, crackers, and frozen foods. Oh, and pasta is always cheaper there!

  7. Grace @eatdinner

    Totally agree that we should assume kids only like plain food, Funny story about frozen peas: Whenever my kids get a little bump that needs ice, I just grab a bag of frozen veggies to put on the bump. It just convenient, really. Anyway, after a few seconds, every one of them (I have 3) would ask, “Can I eat some peas?” So of course I pour some peas into small bowl. It’s so funny, the bump is forgotten and there they are getting comfort from eating frozen peas. (This has been a pattern in my house for years now.

  8. Kirsten

    No Trader Joe comments, but wanted to share – my 6yo daughter enjoys frozen (uncooked, straight from the packet in the freezer) peas and sweetcorn kernels. I give her some in a little cup to nibble on. She’s been eating them since she was about 2. At the moment she’s asking for them every day for dessert after breakfast.

    • katja

      M likes them too! Little kids often like unexpected things. Adults make the mistake of limiting their choices right off the bat!

      • Gorse

        I’ve been given frozen peas since I was a little kid and continue to love the things into my adulthood, but I always thought I was the only crazy kid who loved the damn things!

        Now I feel marginally less insane. 🙂