We need fat in our diet. Our bodies need it as a source of energy, to process fat soluble vitamins and as the source of essential fatty acids important for the normal function of certain glands, metabolic functions, growth and reproduction. Children in particular need good dietary fat.
Unfortunately, most children I know eat mostly bad dietary fats, the kind that come from meat, dairy and baked goods. One of the best choices for dietary fat is extra virgin olive oil. But, for most kids, olive oil is as appealing to their taste buds as oysters, liver and Brussels sprouts.
So, what do you do with the finicky eater? The problem with olive oil is the taste, not the texture, so you could try hiding it. The success rate, however, for hiding a flavor that is distasteful to a child is somewhere around zero (decades later I can still taste the calves liver in every meatloaf even though I know it’s not there). Instead, the long-term goal should be to help the child develop a palate for olive oil — and the earlier the better.
Five ways for kids to savor the flavor of olive oil
Dip it. Let your little ones play with their food. Teach them to dip bread, pita wedges or tortilla chips in lightly seasoned olive oil. Even toddlers can successfully dip their food and will begin associating olive oil with fun. It’s a great way to start developing a taste for a healthy alternative to butter and buttery flavors.
Make gummy bears. Gummy bears will satisfy any child’s sweet tooth. Pick a recipe that you can make together that uses olive oil for flavoring. You can find the ingredients online and molds at your local hardware or sporting goods stores. Insect and worm-like lures are the best.
Olive Oil Gummy Worms from Modernist Cuisine on Vimeo.
Buy olive oil made especially for kids. Just as there are spicier, more pungent extra virgin olive oils well suited for the adult palate, there are varieties of sweeter, milder olive oils made especially for children. Drizzle it over a favorite dessert, spread on toast or use it to fry their chicken tenders. Even though it is sweeter than the more adult variety, it has an olive oil flavor to which their palates will eventually become accustomed.
Taste test olive oil. It probably took you a while to find your favorite flavor of olive oil so don’t expect your child to take any less time than you did. Have a family taste test. Buy small containers and sample each until everyone finds one that pleases their palate. Label it for her use only.
Fill chocolates with olive oil. You can buy chocolates filled with olive oil or you can make them on your own. The same method used for filling chocolates with brandies and other liqueurs can be used to fill them with extra virgin olive oil. In either case, you are retraining the palate of a young one to equate a pleasant experience with olive oil. Stored in the refrigerator, the consistency of the oil thickens to a creamy center, not unlike a popular holiday chocolate egg!
Like wine, olive oil is made from fruit and offers an assortment of flavors. Your adult palate eventually learned to enjoy a collection of wines, and so too, your child’s palate will eventually learn to enjoy extra virgin olive oil.