Dinner Olympics…challenge your child's palate!

Dinner Olympics…challenge your child’s palate!
This post was written by Alyssa Mitola, Dietetic Intern

According to the groundhog’s prediction, there are still four more weeks of winter left; but, on the bright side, we have the Winter Olympics to entertain us. Olympic athletes serve as great role models for our children. They demonstrate passion, dedication, and commitment. They also display strength and endurance. Athletes from around the world remind us of the importance of fueling our bodies with the proper nutrition. In the spirit of Winter Olympics encourage your own little Olympian to try some new foods and stay physically active just like their favorite athletes.


Challenge your kid’s palate (and your cooking skills) with your very own Dinner Olympics. Each week try cooking a new recipe from one of the many countries competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics. At the end, have your child decide which new dinner takes home the gold!


Dinner Olympics is a great way for your child (and you) to try some new foods and explore different flavors. Exposing children to new foods from a young age is important for shaping children’s food preferences and acceptance of new foods throughout their life (Birch 1982). This fun activity also exposes children to the cultural importance of food. Point out different flavors, ingredients, and customs of each country as you gather around the dinner table. Mealtime is a wonderful way to get the whole family together. Research has shown that family meals are positively associated with improved dietary intake, fewer discorded eating behaviors, and overall psychosocial well-being (Neumark-Sztainer et al. 2010).


After dinner is over, encourage an Olympic-inspired family activity. Try some indoor competitions, such as a dance party, can of soup “weight lifting” competition, or some jumping jacks. If you really want to get in the Winter Olympic spirit, plan ski trip or an outing to an ice skating rink.


Kick off your family’s Dinner Olympics this week. Below are a few international recipes to get you started:


Photo Credit: Neven Mrgan via Compfight cc

Russia: Try this version of a favorite Hungarian stew, Chicken Paprikash (adapted from Eatwell.com)

  • 1 pound of chicken breast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • ½ cup dry wine
  • ½ dry white wine
  • 2 cups crushed tomato
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • Egg noodles


  1. Dice chicken and sauté in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Set aside
  2. In a new pan cook peppers, onions over medium heat for five minutes. Add paprika
  3. Add wine and cook until evaporated
  4. Add tomatoes, broth and lemon juice bring to a boil.
  5. Add chicken and simmer until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Prepare egg noodles as per package.
  7. Serve chicken and sauce with egg noodles and sprinkle with parsley


Photo Credit: PincasPhoto via Compfight cc

Spain: Paella originated in eastern Spain, but variations of this classic dish can be found throughout the country. Cook up this easy seafood variation of this favorite Spanish dish (adapted from BBCgoodfood.com)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 peppers (red and green)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  •  1 cup rice
  • 28 oz can of low sodium vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp saffron
  • Frozen seafood mix (defrosted)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Sauté onions in oil until soft. Add peppers and garlic
  2. Add rice and stir
  3. Pour in vegetable broth. Simmer for 20 minutes until rice is cooked
  4. Stir in seafood, peas, and lemon juice. Cook for two minutes


Photo Credit: vincen-t via Compfight cc

Great Britain: Try this British classic, a roasted leg of lamb with mint sauce and potatoes (adapted from JamieOliver.com)

  • Leg of lamb
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of red potatoes, peeled and cut in half

Mint sauce

  • 3 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Boil the potatoes for ten minutes. Remove from pot and dice. Place in pan with leg of lamb
  3. Mix garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil. Rub over leg of lamb. Add salt and pepper and place in oven. Cook 60-90 minutes.
  4. Prepare the mint sauce, by mixing together mint, sugar, salt, water and vinegar.
  5. Let the lamb sit for 10-15 minutes before serving


Photo Credit: Gideon Tsang via Compfight cc


Israel: Originally from Tunisia, this dish has become very popular in Israel. Poached eggs cooked in a spiced tomato sauce, Shakshuka can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (adapted from Foodnetwork.com)

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2  onion,
  • eggplant, diced
  • 1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tbsp smoked paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 medium jarred roasted bell peppers, small dice (about 1 cup)
  • 3 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Pita bread

1. Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant and sauté.
2. Stir in tomato paste, paprika, and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add peppers and tomatoes bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle in parsley
4. Break the eggs over the tomatoes. Cover and continue to cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggs are set.
5. Serve with pita bread or baguette to dip


India: This delicious lentil dish is popular in India. For more information on this recipe and the art of adding legumes to your recipes click here.

  • ½ cup moong dal (yellow lentils)
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 2″ piece of of ginger, chopped
  • 3 to 4 dry red chilies, torn into halves
  • 1 tbsp of ghee or oil
  • 1 tsp of jeera/cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp of asafoetida/hing
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander leaves for garnish (optional)


  1. Wash and boil the dal with turmeric and sufficient water (generally about 2 cups) until it’s the right consistency and the dal is totally cooked.
  2. Heat the ghee or oil in a separate pan and then add the cumin seeds and red chilies. Fry until the cumin turns golden and the chilies turn almost black; take care not to burn them.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the asafoetida and ginger. Sauté until the ginger wilts in the heat.
  4. Then dunk the entire mixture into the dal. Add salt and chopped coriander leaves. Serve with basmati rice or a yummy kale salad for a perfectly scrumptious, highly nutritious meal!


Photo Credit: nSeika via Compfight cc

Italy: Italian Minestrone Soup is a rich source of vegetables that will warm the soul on a cold winter day. Use any combination of vegetables as you stir up this simple winter soup.

Minestrone Soup (adapted from Foodnetwork.com)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of low sodium cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
  • 28 oz can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 ounce Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté until the onion soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add potato, tomatoes and rosemary sprig.
  3. Add broth bring to boil. Add in 1 can of beans. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in spinach until wilted.



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