How To Make Dinners the Whole Family Will Eat

Chow on 11.02.12
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My husband and I love to cook.  Before children, we spent hours creating fancy 3 course meals involving new and exciting recipes and ingredients.  Then we had the kids.  Our days of cooking crazy meals turned into learning how to prepare budget conscious, quick and easy, kid-friendly meals. Although our 3 year old is more adventurous than many pre-school age kids probably because of her RD mama, she still has strong opinions about certain "adult" foods.  

These foods may include intense textures, too many foreign spices, and foods that may be new to kids.  My daughter turns her nose up at chili, sushi, beef stew, and grilled salmon salad just to name a few. Although we usually make kid-friendly meals, we do also make foods that we want to eat and that we want to expose the kids to. On these nights, we do not short order cook so a PBJ or mac and cheese for the kids is out of the question. Instead we serve brown rice and broccoli with the beef stew and they are happy to eat that, for now.  I am confident that they will eat these foods one day.

Tips To Get Kids to Eat "Adult" Foods

  1. Make sure there are options that kids will like.  Even if it is bread and milk, they need something to satisfy their hunger.
  2. If there are foods you like and your kids do not, go ahead and make them occasionally. Your kids will never learn to like different foods unless they are offered them.
  3. Consider your child's likes and dislikes.  This does not mean they always get their favorites like grilled cheese or fish sticks.  It means when you serve a meal like beef stew make sure the foods you serve along with it are foods your children will eat so they have some choices.
  4. Never give in and make your child a kid-friendly food.  This will teach them that if they refuse long enough that they get the foods they want.  Also, it will teach them that there are specific "adult" foods and "kid" foods.
  5. Make sure not to set up the meal by saying, "This is a food that you will not like, so I made you rice and broccoli."  Let your child decide for themselves what they like and do not like.
  6. Remember the golden rule. It is up to the parent what and when to eat.  The child is responsible for how much they eat and if they eat at all.

I know that feeding young children can often be difficult and challenging. And many pre-school and even school-age children have a small list of acceptable foods.  But, eventually they will eat a large variety and become more daring when it comes to mealtime.  Just continue to offer a variety of flavors, different foods, and new recipes.  They will come around and thank you for it down the road.

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