If you love making spicy food at home or if the local authentic Mexican restaurant is your favorite place to go for a night out, it's natural for you to hope that your child will enjoy it just as much as you do. However, many kids are wary of new foods and strong flavors, and all it takes is chomping down on a hot pepper without warning once to turn a child off to spicy flavors for a long time. There are ways that you can build up your child's tolerance for spice and introduce them to hotter flavors gently. Take a look at some tips that will help introduce your child to the spicy foods that you enjoy most.
Start With No-Heat Spices
"Spicy" doesn't have to mean "hot." The first step to helping your child appreciate spicy food is to get them interested in food that's not bland. There are many flavorful and aromatic spices that aren't hot at all – think cinnamon, anise, cumin, garlic, and turmeric, to name just a few.
Start your kids off with simple and palatable dishes containing some of these spices. Garlic chicken is flavorful without being hot. You may want to let your kids taste the difference between regular chocolate and Mexican chocolate, which contains cinnamon. Or they may like bizcochitos – traditional Mexican cookies that are made with anise and cinnamon. Once they're familiar with these flavors, you can work your way up to more complex flavors. Almond mole sauce, served over chicken or pork, is a good example of a dish that complex but fairly mild, containing a mix of aromatic flavors like clove, almond, cinnamon, and garlic.
Avoid Large Chunks of Heat
Once your child is accustomed to stronger flavors, you can begin introducing some heat to your menu. However, you want to avoid any large chunks of heat. You don't want your child getting a mouthful of jalapeno or ghost pepper.
Instead, introduce the heat slowly and make sure that it's thoroughly blended with something else. For example, order salsa that's mild, or even sweet, and add just a few drops of hot sauce, stirring it in thoroughly so there are no hot spots, and let them dip tortilla chips in it. Over time, you can gradually ramp up the heat level as their taste buds become accustomed to the spice. Don't push a whole lot of hot foods at once – if they're eating salsa and chips as an appetizer, that's enough. They can order "kid food" for an entrée.
Model What You Want Your Kids to Eat
At some point, foods that your kids perceive as being "grown up foods" will become more attractive, so make sure that they see you eating the kinds of foods you want them to try. Make and order dishes that are brightly colored and attractive as well as spicy and flavorful.
Be willing to let your kids try a few bites from your plate, if that's what it takes to get them interested in eating something new and challenging. Make sure you have a glass of milk handy before your child takes a bite of something spicy – you want the experience to be delicious, not painful. If it's too much for them, you want them to be able to soothe the burn quickly.
A child that's introduced to different flavors and ranges of spice growing up will have a more adventurous palate as an adult. You'll be doing your child a favor by helping them develop their taste buds early on. You can try this out next time you visit your favorite Mexican restaurant.