Getting children to eat healthy and balanced meals is a challenge that all MerriMamas face. Laney Schwartz, fellow mom, friend and founder of Life is But a Dish inspires us to try new things and not give in to the plain pasta and chicken nugget dinners children often prefer.
Laney and I sat down to talk tips and tricks. Here are a few quick ones you can easily add in to your routine immediately.
1) Be patient. Exposing your kids to different foods, and teaching them to eat takes time and effort. It just does.
2) Make food interesting. This can mean a lot of things. You don’t have to go all crazy and turn your child’s dinner plate into a scene from Frozen. But do think twice before you throw a bunch of the same colored mush on a plate and expect them to eat it just because you said so. Like adults, kids eat with their eyes first. Make their food colorful, use different shapes, and use variety. Here is a great example of how to do this for lunch.
This lunch box is called the Planetbox, which I absolutely adore. You think it takes longer to pack than a regular sack lunch? Wrong. It’s actually much faster, eliminates all those pesky containers, and in my opinion is much more appealing. All the food is right there in front of them making it easier for them to enjoy!
3) Create healthy choices. Yes, it’s tempting and easy to give your kids goldfish, fruit snacks, or pirates booty for their snack everyday. But why not use snack time to experiment and get in some extra healthy nutrients. Create choices. I’m big on offering choices, but I try to be smart about it. If you offer them carrots or cookies, obviously you know the answer. Give them choices you are happy with either way. Or better yet set up a snack plate for them with a mix of healthy and sweet like I do after school. My girls dig in without thinking twice about other cracker/cookie options. A huge plus with this tip is that by introducing some veggies during snack time, I’m not so worried about it during dinner.
5) Deconstruct your kid’s meals. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t make 3 different meals every night. Decide what you want to make, and think about deconstructing that one meal to create an “acceptable” dinner option for your kids. And yes, sometimes this means thinking ahead a little. An example of a deconstructed dinner might be this.
Let’s say I’m making my Orecchiette Pasta Bake for dinner.
And I know that there’s no way my kids will eat this because of what it looks like to them. However, I know they like pasta, cheese, peppers, turkey, etc. So, as I am preparing the dish, I keep aside a small portion of each element. A side of plain cooked pasta, sprinkled with some cheese, cook the turkey meat and set some aside, slice the peppers and set some aside. Now my kids are getting the exact same ingredients, just toned down to their liking. Get it?! It doesn’t have to be exactly this dish, but you get the idea.