02/25/2014 04:23 pm ET Updated Apr 27, 2014

Give Kids Room to Try New Foods and They Just Might Surprise You

An ongoing reel of memories seems to be part and parcel to raising kids. It's kind of like living with little ghosts. I see their taut limbs draped across bedclothes while they sleep and flash back to a pair of chunky thighs curled up in a bassinet. I hear heavy footsteps coming down the hall and recall the tiny patter of a toddler's feet, along with the distinct sound of a diaper in motion. It was only yesterday, really.

For me, food memories are the most predominant of all. Like the time I took my oldest daughter to brunch at friend's house. Barely 1 and brand new at standing on two feet, she ambled over to a low table and snatched a smoked salmon appetizer from a serving platter. My first inclination was to bend down and say, "Oh honey, you're probably not going to like that." But a light bulb went off, and I realized I shouldn't make any assumptions with regards to my kids' food preferences.

Since then, I've kept my mouth shut and am continually surprised by what they will eat without out blinking an eye: stinky cheese, kale chips, seaweed salad. I wonder what would happen if I hesitated every time they reached for something unusual, or if I refrained from cooking foods not considered "kid-friendly" for fear that they wouldn't like it.

As parents, we have enormous influence over how our children perceive the world. Tell them they won't like grilled eggplant, and they might not. Let them overhear you groan about how they "don't like the food I cook," or "they never eat green vegetables," and perhaps they'll live up to their reputation. I'm no psychologist, but consider the possibility that saying, "you are picky" or "you don't eat that" may only bolster a behavior or pattern you may not want to reinforce.

The fact that each of my daughters' girlish shape will give way to womanly curves is inevitable. But the potential for what my children, or yours, will choose in the world is open. Give them a little room, and maybe they'll surprise you by reaching for that smoked salmon-crowned canapé after all.

This post originally appeared on Katie's blog, Mom's Kitchen Handbook, where you can find recipes and tips for feeding a family. You can also follow her on Instagram @KatieMorford