Getting to know our tastes helps us to reduce food waste and have a healthy relationship with food. Take your kids on a fun sensory taste adventure exploring their own and their family’s tastes.

Introduce your kids to the issues surrounding food waste and the things that they can do at home to reduce it. Make an ‘obstacle course of taste’ to help them to get to know their tastes in order to reduce fussy eating, among children and adults alike!

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When we enjoy food, we use all 5 of our senses. And all of these senses help us to work out whether we like a food or not, but we don’t always use them fully when eating. Sometimes we can just turn our noses up at things without exploring them fully. And it’s not just kids that are to blame, many of us simply like to stick to with ‘safe’ foods that we know we like to eat.

One of the exciting things about eating is that we all taste things differently and enjoy different foods. Ask your kids what foods they like? Why? What foods don’t they like? Why?

Sight

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They say that we eat with our eyes. We don’t. But we do form a lasting impression of a meal in a mere glance. We’ll start our sensory workout by getting to grips with first impressions.

Activity 1

Have two bowls of peppers. One red, one yellow or green. Ask your kids to choose which colour they would prefer to eat.

Ask your kids to close their eyes and put on their blind folds, no cheating, and give them a piece of each pepper. Ask them all to guess and share what colour which one was.

Take off their blindfolds and ask if their expectations were met. Some will have, some won’t have. The point of this is get them to see that visual appeal is far removed from the taste of the food. Maybe they will have guessed the colour that they preferred incorrectly, or felt that the pepper that they had was the pepper that they thought they liked, when it was not.

Activity 2

Ask to put a blindfold on one of your kids. Hold up a bowl of mashed banana to the others and ask them to shout out whether they think it looks ‘yum’ or ‘yuck’ but not to say what it is to your volunteer. Ask the blindfolded child if they really want to go ahead with it... are they really sure... do they trust the others? The point is to create some suspense.

After they have eaten some of the mashed banana ask them to describe how it felt not being able to see what was coming. We are all much more reliant on our sight when it comes to eating that we might think.

Texture

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Texture is the way a food feels when you touch it or eat it. Textures of foods are often described as the ‘mouth feel’ of a food, sometimes they are described as the noise that foods make when chewed. i.e. “Crunchy” “crispy” “slurpy”.

Activity

Have bowls containing any of the following foods (or adapt as appropriate – let us know if you have any good ideas!). Ask the kids to try and describe the texture of the foods:

  • Crisp – raw celery, lettuce, apples

  • Soft – cream cheese, mashed bananas, scrambled eggs

  • Slimy – mushrooms

  • Squeaky – gherkins

  • Crunchy – carrots, crisps, popcorn, peanuts

Fact: The chef Mario Batali says that the single word “crispy” will sell a restaurant dish quicker than any number of clever adjectives. Picture “aubergines” on a menu. You might hesitate to order them, fearing they would be flaccid or oily. Now think how much more appealing “crispy aubergines” sound. “Crispy” makes everything appear as safe and crunchy as chips.

SMELL

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Smell is a very important sense. It can get us excited about what we are going to eat. It can help us to identify what is good to eat and what’s gone off. What’s more it determines a huge amount of our taste. Much of what is commonly referred to as the taste of a food is actually its aroma or odour. The mixture of compounds that we perceive as ‘apple odour’ reach the olfactory receptors that lie at the top and back of a complex maze of passages within our noses, and it is these sensors that ultimately signal that it’s an apple we are eating. Put simply, the lack of ability to smell does not kerb our taste but it stops us from being able to distinguish a taste. This activity should serve as a good example.

Activity 1

Get the your kids to pop on their blind folds. The will also need to hold their noses and keep holding until you say they can stop! Have 2 or 3 different juices/smoothies/squashes of similar texture made up. Tell them what the flavours are.

  1. Give them each sample 1, no peeking

  2. Ask them to hold their noses with eyes still closed, no cheating, and take a sip

  3. Have some water

  4. Repeat with the next sample

  5. Have some water

  6. Let go of nose

Ask your kids to say what they thought the order came in. After they have all answered, tell them the which juice was which.

Fact: Most of us can distinguish up to 10,000 different odours using the 40 million olfactory cells each of us has.

A food waste friend: Smell can also help us to determine what’s good to eat and what’s not. Often we look to ‘best before’ dates and ‘use by’ dates to tell us what’s good to eat.

Ask your kids if they know the difference between a ‘best before’ date and a ‘use-by’ date. A ‘best before’ date indicates that a food may be past its best but is still OK to eat where as a ‘use-by’ date marks that a food is no longer safe to eat. Date labels lead to a deal of confusion and often cause food that is perfectly good to eat to be thrown away.

While we would not advise eating a meat or dairy product or a prepared packaged food such as a sandwich or a ready meal that is past it’s ‘use by’ date, in many cases you can look to your nose to do the detective work.

Tip: Put your nose into the container and take a whiff. If your face recoils from that container in any way, it’s a sure sign you shouldn’t put that food into your mouth and eat it. However there are times when these lines are a little blurred and this is usually in the case when it comes to fermented foods such as cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and the notorious Swedish Surstromming.

Activity 2

Fill boxes with the following:

  • Strong blue cheese

  • Lemon

  • Coffee

  • Onion

Ask kids to name the smells. Ask both kids to identify which of the foods are fermented. Answer (Cheese, coffee).

Sound

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Sound has perhaps the most surprising and least reported effect on our taste.

High-frequency sounds enhance the sweetness in food, while low frequencies bring out the bitterness.

It sounds as though we should investigate with some chocolate!

Bring out a bar of milk chocolate. Hand out 2 pieces to each child. Ask them to hold off on eating for a moment. Play some high frequency music. Try one piece. Play some low frequency music. Try the second piece.

Did they taste different?

Congratulations! You’ve completed the taste obstacle course!