The world's best picky eater-proof downloadable from Pinterest is probably not going to get your child eating. Not least because what rocks for one child is not necessarily a win for another.
On the other hand there are ways we can make foods more enticing for our children and if we can do that why not?
My latest breakfast creation, which is a huge hit with my teen is choc yoghurt. I know this is a firm favourite with quite a few fussy children, but my version is not like the store bought :( Although that is something I can do!
My husband is home this week. Yeah! It's a very rare occurrence so I'm loving that he's in charge of laundry, shopping and boy annoying. Even optician's appointments and finding new shoes (that please the teen but don't cost the price of a small car).
He's also a great cook (I definitely lucked out there) so has commandeered the kitchen.
Yesterday he was making zucchini fritters for lunch. Now to give this context neither of my boys are big zucchini lovers. They will generally eat a small bit but they are not enthused. Unless I do zucchini with pizza toppings and then I get a much better strike rate but still ...
I think Roy was working on the same theory so he made a basic fritter with just zucchini, egg and some seasoning (he adds spelt flour to bind I add ground linseeds) but then put it under the grill covered with melted cheese.
A little gratuitous but I have to say it worked on a few different levels and it fascinated me watching it in action. More on that shortly. He also cut it into pizza shaped wedges and although it's mad it really did make a difference. The boys were totally psyched to try it as it did look 1) appealing 2) pizza like 3) cheese drenched.
They had a piece as did I. My first thought was "uh, a little undercooked and wet with the zucchini really being the overwhelming taste and texture". Then the cheese kicked in and the overall experience was OK.
The boys both remarked on the prominence of the zucchini but both had seconds and even fought over the last slice.
Although I am not suggesting that this is a winner for picky eaters there were a few interesting points that came out of this.
1. Presenting a food in a new way can help
2. Marrying a winner food with something not so readily accepted can smooth transitions (cheese/zucchini)
3. Visuals. The fritter looked like a pizza and therefore the initial impression was good
4. Marketing. The zucchini was presented as a new, liked, sought after thing and that's what it became
We all eat for a whole host of reasons and it is a really psychological thing. Using that to our advantage every now and again is not a bad thing!
Have you ever inadvertently discovered a winner?
Sunday afternoon my husband slow cooked a big shoulder of lamb. It meant we had a lot of meat.
So Tuesday when it was Joe's turn to cook I decided to make use of the lamb. We teamed it with home-made spelt wraps, loads of Mediterranean veg, salad, cheese and some hummus I made. A veritable feast.
Meals like these are among my favourites:
1. There is lots of choice.
2. It's bright and colourful and looks appealing
3. There is a good balance of food groups
4. We can make enough so lunches the next day are taken care of
5. It's relatively cheap and simple to make.
If we have a picky eater in the house, meals that offer choice and at the same time the opportunity to try something new with no pressure are great.Note that Joe is in an apron. I on the other hand was not. Guess who got covered in flour?
At The Confident Eater we often do recipe development. On the look-out for food that will rock with children with a more selective palate.
I have been working with a few children who need to be GF and so am experimenting with options that make fun foods delicious.
Pancakes are often OK for children who struggle to eat variety and so having a nice GF option that doesn't crumble is useful.
Perfected one. My boys both agree it's delicious (and they are the first to tell me if something is a fail!!).
If you'd like the recipe please let me know in the comments.
Max was on cooking duty yesterday so made pastry and whipped up an absolutely amazing meat pie.
I have to say it was rich, delicious and nourishing.
But that is not the best thing ...
He cleaned up. Without me asking.
Not just moving the utensils to the sink but washing up, putting the veggie scraps into the compost, wiping down the counters, cleaning the stove and even sweeping the floor.
I am almost weeping in joy. Only 13 years it's taken ...
So when I wax lyrical about cooking it is something that I do focus on in my house too. And no it's not all fab and fantastic but maybe, just maybe I am finally reaching the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Phew ...
Prepping & Preparing
I spent a year as a manic, stressed out, semi-single working parent when the boys were little and Roy was working away during the week (all week, every week ...).
One of my best coping mechanisms was prepping food when I had time rather than when it was necessary. This meant that I could slide in the door late, with 2 kids in tow, grab something pretty much ready from the fridge and whack it in the oven.
Boys in the bath whilst everything heated and then a relaxed ( ish) dinner at a reasonable time.
This strategy has turned out to be a life-saver for me over the years as I generally have a LOT less stress coming into meals. This in turn translates into more relaxed and fun family dinners. Now it doesn't always work of course but mostly it does.
I thought I'd share some of my madness with you!
I started my obsession with food for children aside from my own because where we lived (in Melbourne, Aus) there was a tradition of celebrating students birthdays with cakes/donuts etc. As this didn't fit with my food philosophy I looked for creative but fruit based designs I could recreate instead so the boys could take in something "wow".
This was before the heyday of Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and all the sharing of photos of everything from the dog to the new front fence so there was little available. I grew a little business focused on food art and today thought I'd share some Halloween designs with you.
My food art grew into general food advocacy and from there into workshops for kids in schools and for parents. That's when I realised that parents did not, in general, struggle with "what" to feed their children. They knew what they were "supposed" to do but their kids just weren't coming to the eating party.
And that's how my focus changed and I began to work more and more exclusively with the families of selective eaters. In doing this I also discovered that cooking was a key element in overcoming food fears and that I could use that to gently support children with extreme eating issues to gradually gain confidence.
I continue to run The Art of Nutrition and frequently blog fun food art. I also share our meals and my boys lunchboxes as inspiration for other families. My motto is cook once and serve thrice - which I'm sure resonates with other busy parents. I also love food that is simple, fresh and economical to buy and prepare.
Anyone who works with me knows that I love food and love sharing ideas that can support parents to gently increase the variety of foods eaten by their children - with an emphasis on the fruit, veg, good quality protein and high fibre/low GI carbs.
If you'd like to follow what we do link in here .. https://www.facebook.com/TheArtofNutritionNZ/
One of the boys on my walking bus was talking about pies and it gave me an idea.
I whipped up some super simple, spelt pastry and made a pie for my boys. I find that putting anything in pastry automatically makes it more acceptable and more of a "treaty" thing. This is a salmon version and is chock full of veggies too. They loved it.
Are there ways that your child loves to have food? On crackers, in a puree for example that you can use?
I'm a huge proponent of "setting the kids up for success". They like pie? Then let's use that as a vehicle to serve small amounts of new foods.
One of the ways we support parents who work with us is by creating foods that will be acceptable for their child and enabling them to prepare foods that are new but not scary. We've just made the most awesome dairy-free ice cream recipe for a client we're working with in a few weeks time.
Get in touch if you'd like to know how to use food chaining or bridging with your child.
It's a lovely, gentle way to increase the variety of foods eaten.
Struggling to get the kids eating more (or any) veggies?
Part of the issue is the "kerb-appeal". Veggies just don't have that salty, crispy, more-ish-ness of the hot chip.
In fact they are often sort of soft and limp in the mouth which is a textural challenge for a lot of children.
But, that's not to say we can't boost their street cred. One of my mottos is "if in doubt roast it". I roast all sorts of veg that are not traditionally done in the oven.
Why? Partially because we eat so many veggies that if I only served up boiled carrots, broccoli and peas we'd be bored in 2 days. But primarily because roast veggies ROCK!
This is some swede that I've prepared for tonight. Super simple. Just take a swede and slice thinly (I just used a sharp knife) and roast on an oiled tray, turning occasionally until they go crispy.
My boys will slam dunk these.
If I cut into chunks and added to a stew which is how it's traditionally cooked they would probably eat it but they certainly wouldn't be fighting over any extras.
I have successfully used roasted veggies to get super selective eaters trying veggies so it's definitely something to road test. Don't spring them on them though, get them testing with you in the kitchen. Sprinkle with salt so they are more "chip-like".
Let me know how you go ....
Sausages & Jacket Potatoes
Every now and again I post a pic of my boy's lunchboxes on this site (for regular food blogs https://www.facebook.com/TheArtofNutritionNZ/)
The stuff on the little plate gets reheated and put into a small food thermos. I do this rather than packing a "traditional style lunchbox" for a couple of reasons:
1) Convenience - so simple to throw extra potatoes in the oven or sausages in the pan
2) Quick - takes me minutes to pack lunchboxes
3) Variety - I'm all about the rotations. Different food every day provides different nutrients/interest. This is even more important for selective eaters - we don't want them to get stuck in food "jags"
4) Not sandwiches - everyone who works with me knows I feel that sandwiches are often a fairly nutrient low option. Not that I'm against sandwiches but if the daily menu reads toast, sandwich with spread, bread with dinner - we're just not getting a good spread of nutrients into the kids
If you have a selective eater and want to test how to do this get in touch and we can send you a video that explains a gentle way to approach it ...
Judith is passionate about good food and is even more passionate about enabling other people to enjoy the wide variety of fresh food available today.