Can Kids Learn To Like Spicy Food?

It's a simple fact that kids can be picky eaters, as the Huffington Post attests. They'll probably eat macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but often shy away from "adult" food. This is something most parents know, and many adults admit they were like that when they were kids too. 

Getting a kid to try new foods can be challenging, but there are many ways to introduce a variety of foods into their diets without resorting to bribery or demands. BBC Good Food suggests getting a child in the kitchen to see how to prepare meals. This can get them involved — and curious —about different types of food. The publication also suggests giving kids choices of different foods to help them get accustomed to varying textures and tastes. 

But while these may all be good ideas, let's say you want to incorporate a bit of spice into a kid's diet, such as chopped sweet peppers or a mild salsa. If you want them to learn to enjoy different flavors and prepare them for more seasoned foods when they mature, how exactly can you go about giving your child spicy food without overwhelming them? And is it possible for kids to learn to like spicy foods at all? After all, even some older people love spicy foods while other people hate it.

Start off slow and introduce heat over time

As the Huffington Post explains, there are a few things you can do to help prepare a child for a world of hot and spicy foods. It is important to "build" the child's flavor profile over time instead of jumping right into chili peppers or hot sauce. Little Food suggests initially introducing kids to small amounts of spices without heat, such as cinnamon, basil, cumin, and mint. This will help them get used to more overt flavors — instead of the usual bland kid's foods — without overwhelming them. By slowly adding these spices to your child's favorite dishes, such as a dash of paprika on their macaroni and cheese, you can help ease them into accepting new flavors.

Of course, it's important to know what flavors a specific child can tolerate. For example, while they may be completely fine with sweet peppers and paprika, they could balk at hotter spice levels. Instead of trying to force the child to eat them, registered dietician Allison Tallman suggests (via Huffington Post) letting them pick and choose which spicy foods they'll try, which allows them to find their own comfort level first. You can still offer slightly spicier foods, but make sure the child is ready for them.

So, while your toddler may not eat ghost peppers like baby food, you can still help them explore a world of flavors at a pace both of you are comfortable with.