The words “I am SO excited to eat that!!!” just came out of the mouth of my little Picky Princess. I can’t believe it.
We have tried really hard to not make healthy food choices and meal time a stressful time where we spend an hour each meal arguing with her about what she can and cannot eat. At the same time, I refuse to make a separate meal just for her, consisting of bland non colored items(her fave). So I am constantly pulling at my creative reserves to make healthy food fun and interesting for her.
I have three primary tactics to making healthy food appealing for her highly intelligent, highly particular Little Self. Perhaps some of these ideas will be helpful to any of you who find meal time a battle.
1. Lunch on a Stick – This was what elicited such excitement at lunch time today! Picky Princess refuses to eat a sandwich but if the same ingredients are skewered on either a bamboo skewer, or in this case, a chopstick…she’s all over it. Today’s lunch was leftover salmon, cubes of homemade multigrain bread, organic mozzarella and spinach. She even (gasp) ate the spinach. Apparently it tastes better off a stick. I made another skewer with peaches, blackberries, apples and bananas. That would have been a good breakfast, served with yogurt! It really takes no more time to chop and skewer stuff, than it does to just chop it, and she even thanked me for such a yummy lunch(gratitude and a experimenting palate all in one meal…wow!)
2. 6 Different Things – This is my go-to plan for lunch. Most days I will say, “What should we have for lunch today?” and Picky Princess will squeal, “SIX DIFFERENT THINGS!!!” Which is great. Here’s how it works: I fill a 6 cup silicone muffin pan with small portions of 6 different things. There is always a vegetable, always fruit, always some kind of complex carb and a protein. Then sometimes a little treat, other times an extra fruit. Either way she knows she has to eat some or all of all 6 items. If there is a particularly exciting treat in one of the muffin cups, then I can say “ok, before you eat THAT, you have to eat THAT and THAT.” Works every time. Yesterday she had: sunflower seeds, multigrain crackers, blackberries, mango cubes, organic cheese cubes. Other usual additions are: nuts, tuna, avocado, carrot sticks, chopped tomatoes, hard boiled egg.
3. Petite Chef – I have included my kids in cooking and baking, practically since birth. When they were super teensy I would put them in a rocker or chair or swing and sing to them and talk while I cooked. Now that Foodie Baby is one and a bit, she helps by playing with very exciting tools like the whisk and silicone muffin cups. Picky Princess has her own apron(collection), which are easily accessible to her and she is welcome to help me in the kitchen ANYTIME she likes, which is most days. She stirs, she adds ingredients, she gets me things from the fridge. And the reality is, if she helps me make it, she is WAY more likely to eat it, or at least try it. It comes at a little bit of a cost. I would probably be a bit quicker without my little helper, although because she started early, she’s actually become quite a help. I realize that inevitably there WILL be a wooden spoon full of flour sprayed across me. There WILL be more mess to clean up. I WILL have to share my already ridiculously limited counter space. BUT, all of this is completely worth it to me, to have my child see that the food we put into our bodies is healthy and beautiful. That Mommy has to work hard to make us yummy things to eat. That cooking is fun and time together. So get your kids involved! Ownership is so valuable. They’ll try it, because they made it. Because you value their help.
So as your wee ones are heading off to school, and time gets tight, maybe these ideas will help keep your little people healthy and happy!