Getting Kids to Eat Their … Sushi?


feeding eats

The first time I had tuna tartare, I was on a job recruiting trip for a big tech employer, during one of the Silicon Valley “highs.” The first time my son tried it, he was 14 months old, on a Thursday night dinner at our favorite neighborhood wine bar/cafe (I almost hate to share the name of the place, it’s such an unknown local gem … but for you, dear readers, here you go: ) If I enjoyed it, I thought, why wouldn’t he? And, oh yes, he did! He also enjoyed the handmade spinach ravioli — little pillows of melt-in-your-mouth goodness — but who can blame him?!

As Americans, we have very preconceived notions of what “kids food” is.  Most restaurants offer kids’ menus featuring buttered noodles, pizza, chicken fingers, fries and the like. While it usually ensures they will sit relatively still and eat their dinner, it deprives them of many nutrients and doesn’t allow them to explore the plethora of food options available to us… especially here in one of the culinary capitals of the world.

In our family, kids’ food is the same as adult food, albeit with a bit less spice and a bit more healthy fat, but otherwise, it’s the same meal. At our Christmas Brunch indulgence — the holiday brunch at the Fairmont’s Crown Room — our 4-year-old ate oysters and crab legs, and both our 1.5-year-old and 4-year-old scarfed down enough sushi rolls to make me feel that we’d consumed “our fair share” of the exorbitantly priced yet oh-so-amazing buffet.

Friends and family, particularly those who don’t live in the Bay Area, are shocked that we would even offer our kids these types of food. But my perspective is, why wouldn’t we? Is there a reason we’d want to withhold the tastiness of Indian samosas, the delicate delights of dim sum, or the healthy goodness of chia pudding?

When my first son was beginning solids, my pediatrician gave me some wise words of advice.  She said that babies have been learning to eat solid foods for many thousands of years. Around the world, even the youngest of children eat spicy meat stews, raw fish, and vegetable curries. Somehow, kids had even managed to survive before the days of yogurt puffs and graham crackers. “Feed your kids the same, healthy food you eat,” she said, “There is absolutely no reason a child needs to be fed rice cereal and applesauce.” She encouraged us to use seasoning and spice (within reason, of course), to begin to set their taste buds towards flavorful food right from the beginning.

As a healthy-food fanatic, this was music to my ears.  It also made life a heck of a lot easier as I wasn’t planning multiple menu options for every family dinner.

Last week at the dinner table, by heart was bursting with pride as my 4-year old helped his 1.5-year-old brother learn how to hold his “trainer” chopsticks in order to (successfully!) pick up a piece of salmon maki. Now, this doesn’t happen every night of the week. Last night, they each quickly devoured three slices each of homemade pepperoni pizza — no utensils required — but at least I’m happy knowing pizza isn’t the only dinner they will eat.

Recipe for my “Healthy-as-I-Can-Make-it Pepperoni Pizza”


– 1 ball of whole wheat pizza dough

– 1 c pizza sauce

– 1/3 c pureed, steamed veggies (broccoli, spinach or cauliflower, etc)

– Shredded mozzarella

– Uncured, nitrate-free pepperoni


Note: this is a very kid-friendly dinner to make and to eat! My kids love to roll the dough, spread the sauce, and add the toppings. It makes clean-up a bit harder, but they just love the process… and the result!

– Roll out the pizza dough

– Mix the veggie puree with the pizza sauce

– Spread the sauce on the pizza dough

– Top with cheese and pepperoni

– Bake as directed (typically 450 degrees for 12 minutes)

– Let cool and enjoy!



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