This is a problem as old as time: Getting your kids to eat their dinner in the first place, let alone enjoy it. A good diet is crucial for healthy growth and development in our little ones, so it’s a battle always worth fighting.
But it doesn’t always have to be so hard. In fact, there are ways to integrate nutrition and balanced eating into things that just might put a smile on their little faces. Here are a few helpful tips and recipes to keep your kids fed and, dare I say it? Happy.
How to make the food your kids will love
Tip #1: Spruce up old favorites
This might take some coaxing, but it’s a great way to help your little ones expand their food boundaries and start the path to trying something new. Start with a dish you know the kid(s) will like, and then add, or change, an ingredient or two.
Here are a couple examples:
Mac and Cheese with peas and chicken:
When mac and cheese is about finished, add a cup of frozen peas and a small can of shredded cooked chicken. Viola. Protein and something green.
Chicken Parmesan fingers with lemon:
This is a recipe the whole family can get down on: Simple chicken fingers but with a little love. You’d be surprised on the difference between these and the frozen commodity (the recipe can be found below).
Mickey Mouse oat pancakes:
Almost every kid loves pancakes, but let’s be real: They aren’t typically packed full of nutrients or vitamins. I like to change it up by adding oats, coconut flour, almond meal, etc. to my mix. This can make them taste strange to kids, so behold: The Mickey Mouse pancake. By making them into fun shapes most kids will look right over their less than normal color – especially if you smother them with fruit syrups (like blueberry in my household).
Tip #2: Get the kiddos involved
This certainly depends on the age of your little ones, but there is always something they can do to help. Kids/people tend to appreciate things more when they get to be a part of it and get their hands dirty. Letting them peel carrots, pick herbs, scramble an egg is a super simple and fun step to get them involved; it gets them excited and interested in food and what they are eating. It’s also a great way to give a sense of appreciation to food and where it comes from and how it gets to your table. This can take a little coaxing, but you’d be surprised at the sense of pride a child gets when helping mom or dad with dinner. Then, when you’re sitting down, talk to them about it; ask them what they did and tell them how much you appreciate their help.
Tip #3: Put your foot down, but be patient
When I was growing up with my three brothers, mom and dad did what they could to put food on the table. We did not get much say. It was, “This is what’s for dinner, and you’re eating it.” Now as a parent myself, I want my daughter to be healthy and happy, but I’m also the one who is providing her with the healthy life she has. I feel like I get to say “No” sometimes. I am very generous with her on most things, but when it comes to eating and manners I will not budge. I’ve always had her try things that the adults were eating and treated her as an adult and not some worthless blob of a child, which has helped her keep an open mind to food and trying new things. But it’s because of her parents and how they feel towards food that makes the difference. Kids pick up everything from their parents, including attitudes towards food. If you sell them on something that you really like and want them to eat, why wouldn’t they try it? You are their biggest idol; give them the time of day and help them understand flavor and the beautiful feelings food can bring.
Tip #4: Give this recipe a shot:
Parmesan chicken fingers w/ lemon, yield: 6 servings
- 3lbs Chicken breast, free-range, boneless and skinless cut into 1/4in slices
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1T Dijon mustard
- 2c Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 2c A.P. flour, seasoned
- 2c Parmesan, finely grated
- 2ea lemons, cut into wedges
- Salt/black pepper TT
- 5c oil for frying
- In a large solid stainless steel or cast iron pot, place the oil and heat slowly until it reaches 350f.
- In 3 separate mixing bowls, place the beaten eggs, the flour and breadcrumbs mixed with the Parmesan.
- Season chicken slices with salt and pepper on all sides, evenly.
- Simply bread the seasoned chicken using the 3 stage breading procedure and lay flat onto a pan or cutting board until ready to fry. DO NOT STACK.
- Once oil has reached temperature, fry the breaded chicken “fingers” until golden brown and internal temp has reached 160f.
- Place on paper towels to cool.
- Eat with a liberal amount of fresh squeezed lemon, or get adventurous and follow your (and your child’s) favorite recipe for lemon aioli.
Read this next for a different look at keeping your children fed and happy: Vegan diets for kids: Proceed with knowledge