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Yuck! Everyone has heard the word, spoken the word or wanted to say it at least one time. It could happen eating a family dinner, tasting a new restaurant dish, sampling an unlucky-pot dish or simply nibbling at a bad meal in the home of a friend. Adults think “Yuck, this taste’s awful,” and a child might exclaim, “This is yucky!” The burning question: does one actually have to eat the food, or is there a socially acceptable way to deal with the “yuck?”

The bad food situation can arise either at home with family or in public. Often, one look at a dish with a unique presentation (fish with the head attached) or hearing the inclusion of an unusual ingredient (sardines) is enough to cause the exclamation “Yuck!” Begin exposing children to different kinds of foods at an early age, as that is the time they are most impressionable. Studies have shown that children need to be exposed to new foods 10 times before actually being able to decide whether or not they like it. Therefore, introduce it in fun and different ways. Just in time for the Halloween season are Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Avocado Buttercream Frosting, which can be found on the blog Chocolate and Tea (avocados are seriously mystical foods!).

Another way to lessen the stress of unwanted/"yucky" foods at mealtimes: engage children by planning meals together. Use a food chart, shopping for ingredients and teaching them how to make healthy food decisions, which will ultimately prepare children to make better choices for themselves.

Finally, parents can explain that the word “yuck” is not an acceptable way to describe food on the table and provide a suitable alternative response. If the child does not wish to try something, a simple No Thank You will suffice. After all, not wanting to sample a dish does not mean that manners should be lead astray!

It is important for children to realize a meal takes time and effort to concoct. Our EtiKids can understand preparation communicates caring for others and makes people happy. Expressing feelings by making faces or describing how yucky the food tastes is hurtful behavior and should not be excused. It is also important to be sensitive to other people's feelings; everyone does not have the same interests in food, and various choices should be respected. In EtiKids, one of our favorite phrases is "Don't Yuck My Yum!"

At the home of a friend or in a restaurant with other people, there is ample opportunity for exposure to strange or unusual foods. First, one should never say “yuck” out loud. Second, “Thank you, I’ll try a little,” is the perfect way to accept a small helping if it is a new food or one is unsure of the taste. If the flavor is too strong or tastes unpleasant, one can hide the fact by playing and pushing small pieces around the plate. Please do not feed the pet as many animals have allergies and can become very ill. Spitting into a napkin is never good manners!

Individuals with food allergies, medically restricted diets can say, “It looks delicious, but I am gluten free.” For ingredients which are unknown or suspect, “No thank you, I have a food allergy,” is a polite and acceptable answer.

As grownups, set an example and be a role model; try new foods and experiment! Try to sample different dishes and be open to new tastes and textures... But please, Don't Yuck My Yum!

 
 
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Do you love the idea of entertaining but stress once people accept your proposed engagement? Most people don't realize that a considerable amount of planning is required to become the "host with the most." Visiting someone’s home can be a satisfying experience for both guest and host; responsibilities for the host begin by extending a sincere invitation. Choose a group that will have fun together and share a common interest. As RSVP’s are received, ask about any dietary restrictions or allergies (this includes pet allergies too!)

Organize. Organize. Organize. Use lists for the menu, cleaning and delegate assignments. For those individuals offering to bring something, politely provide guidance or assign a complimentary side dish. Prepare as much as possible ahead of time to decrease stress and increase enjoyment.

Greet everyone warmly and help them feel welcome by making introductions and smiling. Offer interests as topics of discussion.

Provide appetizers and/or drinks as soon as guests arrive. Who wants to drive for 45 minutes and not even get a glass of water?

Be a schmoozer and socialize with everyone. Pull those who may be isolated or uncomfortable into the folds of conversation.

Make sure guests leave safely. Walk everyone to the door as visitors exit. Thank them for coming.

The success of a gathering lies in the company of those invited. Although parties often include food, the laughter, pleasant conversation, and sharing of good times are what make the experience gratifying for everyone.

Creating that comfortable environment is the job of the host. Children can learn those skills by observation and practice. Give them a task to perform. Each child can be given age-appropriate activities and are more than capable of assisting in the kitchen. Tasks include: setting the table with some guidance, greeting guests and helping them find their seating. Create opportunities to participate in conversation – rather than monopolize -and practice using their good manners prior to having any visitors. These social skills and more are learned in EtiKids classes.

As Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use!”