On the refrigerator in our kitchen we have a scrap piece of paper with “Meals That Receive 5 Petey Thumbs Up” scribbled on it. Over the years I’ve recorded the meals that all 5 members of our family really enjoy. Mostly I do this because I have no memory left these days, but it also serves as a quick Go-To list for pantry meals and quick weekly menu ideas.
Start keeping track of meals that are quick, healthy, and easy to prepare but most importantly ones that every member of your family enjoys. This easy little action will save you time when you plan your menu for the week.
People often ask me how I get my children to eat just about anything. The main reason for our success, perhaps, is that *we* like to eat everything! My husband and I have a positive attitude about the variety of foods we try whether ethnic, vegetarian, healthy, or deep fat fried. This favorable approach filters to our children who will eat or try anything from tofu and sushi to tahini and salmon. Here are a few tips to get your children to have a widely varied palette:
1) Start young
Offer a variety of foods at a young age. We started our children eating everything we did as soon as they were old enough to have no definite allergies and were able to chew and digest most foods. A decent portable food grinder comes in handy here. For example, when we had wonton soup for dinner we’d smash it up and feed it to our children. If you’re starting as young as we did, be sure your child isn’t allergic to the foods you’re trying and be sure there are no choking hazards.
2) Avoid the Nugget Syndrome
When the children were young we quietly avoided serving chicken nuggets, hot dogs, boxed mac-n-cheese and a variety of other “children’s staples.” After all, they’re loaded with sodium and other unhealthy ingredients that, well, make things taste delicious! What child at that age would choose grilled chicken and asparagus for dinner over nuggets and fries? And don’t worry, they’ll get enough of these when you go out.
3) Order from the adult menu
Many restaurants offer chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and spaghetti on their children’s menu. Instead, try splitting a portion of your meal with your child, or have your children share a healthy adult meal among themselves.
4) Don’t give up on a food
Sometimes our children would spit out a food they didn’t care for. We didn’t cross it off our list, though! Following our pediatrician’s recommendations we tried that food up to four more times on separate occasions before we’d take a break. Even then, re-introducing a food a year or so later often was successful.
5) Have a positive attitude
Try to avoid sayings like, “You won’t like that”. Why not try instead, “Mmmmm, you’ve got to try this!”
6) Make it fun and get your child’s help
Try making food into fun shapes or providing healthy dips for veggies. Have your child help pick out your weekly menu, find recipes, go food shopping with you, and help prepare and serve dinner. Let her set the table and have her make it look fancy or fun so she enjoys every aspect of meal time.
7) Don’t cook separate meals
When a child doesn’t care for what you’re serving for dinner, don’t offer to cook something else for her. Instead, offer extra of an already prepared side dish or veggie. If you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition, discuss the problems with your pediatrician who will likely offer valuable advice.