10 July 2006

Making sandwich crusts palatable to kids

Here's how Stephanie solves the age-old bread crust dilemma:

My 2-year-old daughter hates to eat the crusts on sandwiches. When I'd cut a sandwich in halves or fourths, she'd take just a bite from each section, leaving the whole corner and a lot of waste. Now, I cut sandwiches twice diagonally. She gets four triangles with only one edge of crust on each, so she eats down to the crust easily.

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I don't mean to be snappish - and granted, I'm not very qualified to speak on this topic since I'm still a parent-to-be - but...

How do kids ever get the notion in the first place that not eating the crust is even an option? I mean, they aren't born with the innate hatred of crusts, are they? Seems more like someone - a parent, sibling, or playtime friend - instills in them the idea that crusts are open to being avoided.

Or am I just being overly naive since I've yet to have first-hand experience with toddler taste buds?

I've watched mine start on sandwiches when little, eagerly eating the whole thing, crust and all, then gradually start refusing the crust. Same with fruit peel. Sometimes they'll eat it, but more often than not they do like Stephanie's and leave the "bones". Innate? Maybe. Kids are strange; don't try to predict anything.

Maybe not innate, but quickly learned either through personal preference (hey, the soft middle stuff does taste better) or learned from peers. Our solution is simple and pretty effective. We serve our kids (4 of them, age 6 and under - we go through a lot of bread!) their sandwiches with small servings of a drink, fruit, yogurt, chips, pretzels, apple sauce, etc. (ie the good stuff). And they get more of the stuff they really like (drinks - normally milk for lunch, fruit, yogurt, etc. AFTER they eat their crust. Hunger is a good motivator. Kids will eat what they need to stay healthy, and often when our kids used to not eat their crust we found that they'd eaten all the other stuff first and just plain weren't very hungry any more - they'd saved their crust for last and therefore didn't eat it but were still full. Our method seems to be working pretty well so far.

Just today I was thinking of Parent Hacks and the very same crust issue! I have a two year old who refuses his sandwich crust and fruit with the peel. He's an only child. There is no way he could have learned this from other children since he hasn't spent that much time with others at lunch. My husband and I our crust and peel so he couldn't have learned it from us. During today's lunch, after he munched down his sandwich to the crust, I put extra jelly on the outside of the crust hoping to entice him to eat more. It sort of worked. I just think it's preference with texture. The same goes with apples. I have to peel them otherwise he just nibbles at the center of the fruit for the most part. I didn't like crust or peel when I was little but eventually I grew out of that.

my five year old is not a fussy eater and into the idea of eating healthily. So we are lucky. We try to lead a good example and are backed up fortunately very well by her school. (Going off the point here but explaining to her that eating a 'rainbow' of colours is our daily goal has worked very well.) However given the choice she will leave her crusts - especially from wholemeal bread. A taste and texture thing in my opinion: crusts take a bit more effort for not much reward. What does seem to work is to remind her that the dark bit, i.e. crust, on the outside is made from sugar (yummy!) caramelizing when the bread bakes. Semi -true? Anyway the power of suggestion works wonders here.........and equals no wasted food AND a full tummy!

Our kids have gone through the toddler years on whole wheat bread. I personally think the crust tastes awful on the fluffy white bread with not much nutritional value. My kids eat the bread crust and all no problem - maybe because they never had that soft white wimpy stuff in the first place. Just speculation. Maybe they just like bread!

1. My son used to leave the crusts behind (we eat only whole wheat bread), but now eats them -- he's 6 1/2 and growing out of some of his finickiness. It CAN happen. My daughter (3) won't eat bread of any sort. Grrrrr.

2. Unrelated bit of trivia: when I was a kid my mom told me that, like the peel of the apple, the crust was the healthiest part of the bread. I ate it, no questions asked. (Goes to show you how gullible I was.)

At my daughter's daycare the assistant would roll up the crust so it looked like a snail....all the kids ate them after that!

My daughter only got picky about it once she saw other kids refusing it!

My baby is only 11 months but I used to babysit, and my fool-proof plan is simple: cut the crust off before you make the sandwich, and spread the peanut butter and lay the crust on top, then spread the jelly on the other side and close the sandwich. I don't know if eating the crust matters at all but at least this way the kid doesn't realize it's there, and we're not wasting food! I never got as creative as any of these other posts though!!

Rob, I used to think exactly the same as you...until my son turned 3. All 3-year-olds are picky in some way, even if they were not picky at all when they were younger. I don't know why it is, it just IS.

That being said, I believe two things are to be done about picky eating: 1) Don't make a huge deal about it and force kids to eat stuff through threats and shame (as many of our parents did for us). Because how's that going to make the kid like the food? and 2) on the flip side, don't go all out preparing things exclusively for their unusual tastes. That is, if they want to leave the crusts, fine. But I'm not cutting them off for them. And I'm not preparing a special meal for them if they don't like what's on the table at dinner. I make sure there's a variety, often including things like carrot sticks and fruit, and then that's it. I'm not making them something exclusive to them. Studies have shown that this leads to better eating, because the kids know you're not bowing to their wants.

I know your question was not about all toddler eating habits, but since you're a parent-to-be, I thought I'd share these insights on a subject I feel strongly about.

well, sometimes we do cut them off, save them, grind them up for other things that require breadcrumbs. or, we cut them off, and use them to dip into something yummy. or, we toast them extra and enjoy them being crunchy things to eat.

we try not to overdo eating grains anyway, so we're rather more creative about making the vegetables gorgeously yummy and amusing to eat. we think it is so important to listen to one's body saying *i'm full* that we'd rather go with the smaller portion side of things, too. if it seems like they need to be eaten, we'll give them all names, and they go down to the tummy to meet their friends at a party!


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Oh Rob, you ARE naive... you see, these kids... they actually have minds of their own! I know! Who knew?

This is my idea of a compromise: I tell them that I'll cut off one side of the crust (they seem to dislike the top more than the sides) and they have to eat the rest. For some odd reason this does the trick.

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