I post my fair share of food porn on Facebook. And inevitably, along with the compliments, I get some incredulous comments. "I can't believe you can get your kids to eat that!" I squirm a little bit about this kind of praise, because it's not exactly accurate. I do serve my kids what we have for dinner. I think it's important to expose them to a variety of foods, even if they don't choose to eat them. But I do it in a way that is best described as dinner deconstructed. Tonight's meal is a perfect example of that.
Here is the adult version of our meal this evening. Crispy quinoa patties with asparagus salad loaded with hard boiled eggs & ham and topped with a mustard vinaigrette. And like your kids, mine wouldn't touch anything on that plate with a ten foot pole. I ate mine accompanied by some sparkling water and it was delicious. Lots of protein and veggies. But my kids take one look at that monstrosity and think weird followed quickly by yuck.
This is my preschooler's dinner. She's my voracious eater and she'll try anything once. But like most toddlers, she is most attracted to food that can be dipped and handled with her fingers. Notice that everything is carefully separated on this plate. Kids of all ages prefer to know exactly what they are eating. Can you blame them?
It's also specifically tailored to her tastes. She loves all things spicy and that mustard vinaigrette is right up her alley. I knew better than to try to pawn a quinoa patty off on her. She won't touch anything that has suspicious vegetable content in it, although she'll eat them separately often enough. So when I was prepping the patties, I set aside some carrot sticks, chopped zucchini and plain quinoa for her plate.
Next up is my nine year old son's plate. He is the picky eater of the family and rarely deviates from carbs and dairy by choice. He never ate a piece of meat until he was five. Five. We tried all sorts of bribery- cookies, money, toys. Nope. And now he eats sushi, people. It can be done.
On his plate, we stuck with plain. No hidden flavors here, just a sprinkle of salt. I approached his veggies in the same way, serving them up a la carte. I guessed he might go for the quinoa patty because it resembles carbs pretty closely and he's gotten used to hidden veggie content by now. Both kids had their meals with a side of coconut milk- which they prefer and delivers more calcium per glass than milk.
Did my kids eat all of this? Not a chance. But they tried everything and even when they opted out of a food, if they expressed an interest in something else on their plate, I happily agreed to seconds. It's not an approach that will work for everyone, but it allows my husband and I to still feel like we are eating adult food and ensures our kids make healthy choices at the dinner table.