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Victor was at his grandmother’s house visiting his family. He went to the snack table to grab some chips and his aunt came over to him. Like she does at every family gathering, she asked him, “Are you having some of my world famous chickpea salad?” She knew that he was a picky eater and didn’t like chickpeas yet, but she asked him about trying it every time she saw him.
“Not today, Aunt Gloria,” Victor responded nervously.
“Oh no! That makes me so sad. This is my special recipe, and you’re the only one who doesn’t like it.”
Victor apologized. He felt embarrassed! He didn’t want to hurt his aunt’s feelings, but he still wasn’t ready to try a chickpea salad. This made him avoid the snack table for the rest of the day.
We know that feeding picky eaters is a challenge, and we want to help you and your child avoid these awkward food situations. Reversing picky eating is a process that takes time, and we’re here to guide you along the way! Here’s how to teach kids to eat chickpeas. In this article, you’ll learn:
- How to serve chickpeas to picky eaters
- The benefits of chickpeas for kids
- How to talk about chickpeas to get your child to try them
- How to help your child understand what chickpeas do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with chickpeas
How to Serve Chickpeas to Picky Eaters
When serving food to your picky child, we highly encourage you not to pressure them to eat during the meal. When you think of the conversation between Victor and Aunt Gloria, you can feel the tension caused by the pressure she put on him to eat her salad. Once he felt pressured, he avoided the food table for the rest of the gathering.
Parents and caregivers can put pressure on a child in many different ways. Here are a few examples:
“I have a special surprise for you if you finish your dinner.”
“Look, everyone else is eating their chickpeas.”
“It’s rude if you don’t even try one bite.”
Learning how to avoid pressure at mealtimes can be a huge stress relief for both you and your child. Without pressure, children can learn how to like new foods at their own pace.
Additionally, serving micro portions of new foods can make your selective eater more likely to try them. Micro portions are small, pea-sized pieces of food that are less overwhelming to kids than large portions. Serving small portions can also cut back on food waste! Aunt Gloria may have had better luck getting Victor to try her salad if she had served him one chickpea first so he could get more comfortable.
Victor’s parents could also try serving chickpeas to him in different ways when they’re at home. Varying the way you serve unfamiliar foods may help your child want to try them. You can serve cooked chickpeas to kids whole, halved or squished for toddlers and babies. They can be added to soups, salads and blended with other ingredients to make dips like hummus.
The Benefits of Chickpeas for Kids
Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are good for kids and toddlers because they are a good source of protein. Interestingly, they are one of the few foods to be categorized as both a protein and a vegetable by the USDA. It’s great for growing kids to have a variety of protein sources in their diets, because protein contributes to the growth of their immune system, brain, bones and muscles.
In addition to being a good protein source for kids, chickpeas are high in fiber and they are a good source of folate. Folate is a nutrient that helps with cell growth and production.
Chickpeas are also inexpensive and accessible. With all that in mind, it’s no wonder Victor’s aunt was determined to get him to try her chickpea salad!
How to Talk About Chickpeas to Get Your Child to Try Them
Using negative language to talk about food is typical behavior of a picky eater. “This looks strange!” “It’s too squishy!” “That smells icky!” These negative phrases only encourage fussy eaters to stay picky. It makes it more difficult for them to learn about a new food, let alone try it.
One thing we can do is to give our kids new words to use. You can promote this new way of talking about foods through your own actions; this is called modeling. Model using a large variety of neutral words when speaking about foods or meals.
If you use positive language around foods, a picky eater may think you’re fooling them into trying something yucky. If you use negative words, your picky eater definitely won’t want to eat it. Neutral words will help your child understand that they could learn to like a food in the future.
Talking about food objectively won’t convince your child they should try chickpeas tomorrow. It is, however, one important part of our strategy to get your child to eat chickpeas eventually.
Here are some words you can use to describe chickpeas to your selective eater:
- Light brown/tan
If Aunt Gloria wanted to get Victor to think about the chickpea salad in a neutral way, she could have said, “This salad has chickpeas in it. Chickpeas are smooth, round and tan.”
How to Help Your Child Understand What Chickpeas Do in Their Bodies
How we talk about food with picky kids (or any kids!) makes a big difference. It can either make it more or less challenging for them to accept a new food. If you say, “This food is a healthy food,” your child may decide they don’t want to eat it without even trying it, simply because you used the term “healthy.”
Trying to persuade a picky eater like Victor to eat chickpeas doesn’t usually end with the child eating the food. It usually ends in a food battle. Avoid the battle by talking about what foods do in your child’s body when the subject comes up.
We want to share information about the new food that a child can relate to. We also want to help them understand the connection between food and the body.
Is this going to miraculously inspire a picky kid to try something new? No. This is but a single step in your child’s path to learning to try new foods.
Here are some messages for chickpeas. You can come up with your own as well!
Age 0-3: Brown foods give you more energy to play and run fast!
Age 3-5: Chickpeas give your body power that helps your muscles get stronger.
Age 6-11: Chickpeas have something called protein, which helps you grow taller and gives your bones and muscles their strength.
Age 12-18: Chickpeas have a nutrient called protein. Protein contributes to the growth of our immune system, brain, bones and muscles.
When Victor was at the snack table making his food decisions, Aunt Gloria might have chosen to say “This salad is made from chickpeas. They have protein, which is a nutrient that helps give muscles their strength!”
Chickpea Food Play Activity
Food play activities help kids who are learning to accept new foods. When kids look at, touch, smell, and, at some point, taste a new food, they could be learning to like it.
Food activities aim to desensitize the body’s sensory system. When a sense is new to the brain, the brain could automatically perceive it as a danger. If it does, it could alert their fight or flight system. “Desensitize” in this sense means that your child’s body becomes more familiar to the new food. That way, once your child is with the food, the texture, smell or taste doesn’t bother them as much. When your child’s body and brain become more used to the food, they may be more willing to try it. They may surprise you and even learn to like the food!
Food activities can be as simplistic as allowing your child to cook a meal in the kitchen with you as your sous chef. If you have the time, you can get more creative with it. The possibilities of food play activities are endless.
Chickpea activities won’t convince your child to learn to like chickpeas overnight. The process can take a lot of time, and that’s okay! Picky eaters must go through the many stages of being with chickpeas, including looking at them, smelling them, touching them, and tasting them. Starting with basic activities for looking and smelling the food and working up to bigger activities like touching and tasting will be key.
Here is one example of a chickpea activity for kids. If you need more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.
Here is a chickpea activity that Victor’s aunt or parents could do to teach him to eat chickpeas.
Chickpea Sky Scrapers
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 container
- Rinse and drain the chickpeas, pat dry with a towel and place in a container.
- Set out the toothpicks and container of chickpeas for your child.
- Start creating structures by using the chickpeas to connect the toothpicks together.
- Invite your child to build tall skyscrapers with you.
For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!
Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!
About Kids Eat in Color
Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents.
Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed
“Nutritious.” USA Pulses, January 24, 2018. https://www.usapulses.org/consumers/nutritious.
“Beans, Peas, and Lentils.” MyPlate. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed July 19, 2021. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods/beans-and-peas.
“Folate (Folic Acid).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, February 23, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-folate/art-20364625.
Cronometer. July 19, 2021. https://cronometer.com/#foods.
Cherry, Kendra. “How the Fight or Flight Response Works.” Medically review by Steven Gans, MD. The American Institute of Stress, August 21, 2019. https://www.stress.org/how-the-fight-or-flight-response-works.