When my mother-in-law was visiting recently, I wanted to take her out to dinner as a thank you for watching Kiwi and Peeper while I worked. She loves sushi but lives in semi-rural Michigan—not exactly a mecca for delicious combos of rice, nori and raw fish. So I suggested we go out to a local sushi restaurant with the kids—something I was semi-terrified to do, considering they are picky eaters.
I am actually shocked at how well sushi with kids went! The girls ate (a bit), and my mother-in-law ate a lot. (“You don’t like roe? More for me!”)
If you’re feeling brave, I have some advice, dear parent of fussy eaters. Here are my suggestions on how to get picky eaters to try sushi!
Sushi with kids: Go for it!
Going to sushi with kids isn’t impossible. Here’s how to make it happen.
- Go during happy hour. Your kids will be less cranky, the restaurant will be less crowded and you’ll spend less on sushi.
- Go to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. My girls were flabbergasted that food went ’round and ’round—like a sushi carrousel!—and they could just pick the food that looked good.
Pro tip: Keep a close eye on your kids, or have them sit on the outside of the table, so they don’t get their hands on every plate that passes by.
- Order a variety. The whole point of doing sushi with kids is to let them experiment. Getting picky eaters to taste foods as unfamiliar as sushi is a win in and of itself. So get a variety of rolls—raw fish, smoked fish, tempura, veggie-only—and act excited about trying each one.
- Pick a familiar food. If your kids like rice, get that. If they like soup, order miso. Make sure there’s at least something to eat on the table that they won’t fight.
- Encourage adventure bites. The girls’ cousin calls taking a first taste an “adventure bite,” and we’ve adopted the phrase. We say, “I’d like you to take a bite, and if you don’t care for it, you can say no thank you.” Then it’s fine if they spit it out. The low-pressure experimentation works for us (even if it grosses out other diners. Sorry!)
- Nickname unfamiliar foods. My kids didn’t love most of what they tried. But they did like shrimp tempura—which I called “fish sticks.”
- Try chopsticks. Ask your server for kids’ chopsticks—they’re held together on the end so even my toddler could use them. She loved the challenge!
Do your kids eat sushi? Tell me how you make it work!