Post by Adrienne of Susie Makes SupperIf your kids are anything like mine, they would be happy with chicken nuggets and pasta for supper every day of their lives. And if you have ever tried to feed a kid like mine homemade macaroni and cheese when he or she is expecting the orange stuff that comes out of a blue box, you know that feeding kids real food can be a challenge.
Here are a few tricks that I use when planning healthy meals for kids:
- Rename the dish. My aunt recently told me a story about a casserole that her mom made when my aunt and her brothers were little. The casserole was simple: noodles, ground meat, and tomato sauce. You know the casserole. If it were pasta with sauce and meatballs, each ingredient separately identifiable, the kids probably would have eaten it without complaint. The boys refused to eat this casserole. One day, my aunt’s mom told the boys that they were having cowboy food for supper. She served the same noodle, ground meat, and tomato casserole that her boys had previously refused and that night received rave reviews from her boys. A favorite was born. “Cowboy Food” was regularly requested for supper. Same dish, different name. A little creative license goes a long way and is exactly the way to get your kids to try meatballs with spaghetti squash instead of pasta or homemade macaroni and cheese. Your kids’ favorite story characters or zoo animal or game can provide wonderful inspiration for your next meal’s name.
- Make it cute. Truth: anything in the shape of a cupcake or made in miniature is more appetizing to kids. I can’t explain it, I just know it is true. This concept works for homemade macaroni and cheese, tacos, and meatloaf. Using the cupcake technique allows you some creativity with your ingredients. Meatloaf cupcakes? How fun! You can even frost them with mashed potatoes and decorate them with peas. (I’ve actually done this before – without telling my kids what they were eating. The kids not only thought it was hilarious, but ate every bite.)
- Let your kids help you make the dish. What’s in chicken nuggets, anyway? A lot of things you probably don’t want to eat if we are talking about the frozen, shaped variety. But your kids can help you make their own chicken nuggets (and shape them, if you have an awful lot of anti-bacterial soap in your kitchen) with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. This trick works well with other classic kid favorites like spaghetti-os and pizza. It also works really well with new dishes like gnocchi and potpies.
Do you have any tips for updating kid favorite meals? Drop a note in the comment section with your favorite tip or requests for future posts about cooking for kids.
Adrienne is a compulsive list-maker with a very busy family and a not very clean house. She’s also a planner and a recovering perfectionist. Adrienne blogs at Susie Makes Supper, where she shows her successes and failures in the kitchen and freely gives advice on all sorts of topics.