(our 10 month old daughter’s first taste of sauerkraut)
I was in college before I began to regularly eat fermented foods, and then it was only in the form of store-bought low-fat yogurt filled with aspartame – not exactly a traditional cultured food.
It wasn’t until after my first child was born, over six years ago now, that I really knew anything about fermented foods. Sure the cheese, bread, beer, wine, and yogurt I had seen all of my life had fermented roots, but still I was eating the industrialized American version of them.
So it took me a while to get used to the flavor. Because most of the standard American diet consists of heavily salty and sweet foods, the flavor of a fermented food – rich, tangy, nutty, earthy – is a bit foreign.
I did not want to put my children in the same scenario – trying desperately as an adult to change my ways and learn to eat as so many who came before me.
Our Children’s Journey to Cultured Foods
We began to feed them “weird” food from an early age. There were no baggies full of cheerios, or small cartons of sweetened “baby” yogurt.
One of our eldest son’s favorite foods was whole milk cultured yogurt – plain and off a spoon. I remember his squinty little face from the initial tang and then his arms flailing around excitedly as he wanted more, more, more.
Our second son’s first sip of kombucha came right before he turned a year old. There was the initial pucker followed by an excited demand for more. Kefir smoothies followed along with sourdough bread and cultured butter.
We gave them fermented cod liver oil as babies and at four and six they still take it happily off a spoon, and often ask for seconds. They also eat yogurt, kefir, and kombucha straight up with no additional seasoning.
They love sauerkraut, fermented pickles, and cortido. I often have to pace them on these foods when there is a new batch as they can’t get enough and I don’t want them to overdo it. I am very grateful for this.
A few simple rules we followed to establish fermented food eaters were:
- Do not give them anything with sweeteners (sugar, honey, etc.) until they are at least one, maybe even two. If you over-encourage their natural desire for sweet foods then they will turn their noses up at sour and fermented foods.
- Likewise, limit fruit. This is partially due to the sweet factor, but also because when speaking in terms of nutrient-density, it is best to be feeding them things like meat, fat, and vegetables rather than sweet fruits.
- Feed them fermented foods as soon as they can start eating, and don’t feel like you need to sweeten them or water them down to get them to eat them. The whole idea is to expose them to them so that they later on enjoy them.
- Start them with some of the more acquired tastes first. Maybe it’s milk kefir or a pungent cheese or tangy sauerkraut or even bitter cacao. Give them just little tastes of those things very early on, and that combined with the lack of sweets will mold their pallet to be cultured food-friendly.
We have been fortunate to learn the wonders of cultured foods before our children are too old and we try not to take for granted how lucky we are for that.
If your children are older and already have a pallet that isn’t as fond of cultured foods as you’d like, then you might want to take a look at this article on kid-friendly fermented foods. In that article you can learn which foods they’re already eating that can easily be swapped for a homemade cultured version without their knowing.
What about you… how do you encourage children to eat cultured foods?