Let children enjoy the grill as much as the fryer.
Children like fried food. That is hardly surprising. Mario Batali says the adjective that sells food more than any other is the word “crispy.” We know very well that frying is not the only way to stimulate the senses. Try grilling a child friendly favorite, like chicken. Kids are attracted to fast food because it is recognizable. French fries can be “fried” in the oven for a similarly crisp exterior and pillowy interior.
Sides can be more than potatoes.
Americans consume more than 4.5 billion pounds of French fries every single year. By getting the kids addicted early, that number is only increasing. There are over 400 vegetables that could work as enticing alternatives. Cook them simply to let their delicious flavors shine through.
Fruit can be fun.
The amount of whole fruit that kids ate from 2003 to 2010 increased by 67%. That being said, the total number still remained low, but not nearly as low as vegetable consumption. Try arranging berries or fruit in a pleasing pattern or, better yet, let the kids create their own masterpieces before serving them for dinner. After all, kids do like to play with their food and a recent study says that messy kids that play with their food may be faster learners.
Salads aren’t just for grown-ups.
We all know that salads are good for you but that doesn’t make them fun to eat. Serving a dip with a salad is much more kid-friendly than pouring the dressing on top. You can also serve the salad as a skewer so the picky kids can have control over how and what they eat.
Consider the drinks you offer the young ones.
Milk or fruit juice are great accompaniments to most meals but fruit and vegetable smoothies can be a fun change of pace while also allowing you to add some much needed vitamin and nutrients to their diet.
Change up your grains.
Many grains that are exposed to children are highly processed. They act as cheap fuel, explaining why kids have such extreme highs and lows (and tantrums). Whole grains are a great habit to introduce to kids and are delicious, especially when coated in the sauces that kids know and love (such as tomato sauce).Also, fresh whole grain bread is usually a hit with any age group.
Explore your pasta-bilities.
Most kids will eat pasta anytime and anywhere. They act like they are carbo-loading for a big marathon (Maybe running at recess works out to a mini-marathon!). Since pasta is an easy win, consider offering more than one type. There is whole grain pasta, kamut pasta, oat bran pasta and many others that can be mixed in with their traditional semolina standby. Puree some vegetables straight into the sauce and it will feel like a treat for the kids while slowly developing their affinity for flavor.
Take a familiar shape but change the ingredients.
When kids have a birthday party to attend, they are normally fed one of the following: hot dogs, hamburgers, or pizza. Repeat exposure creates a food familiarity for children, which explains why they often choose the same things again and again. According to Dr. Jennifer Orlet Fisher, “Children do not naturally like healthy foods. They need to learn to like those healthy foods. They like what they know.” Make the burger healthier by adding lots of chopped veggies into the mixture, substitute regular hot dogs with leaner turkey franks, and make your own pizzas with whole-wheat dough, low fat cheese, and various vegetable toppings.
Let them assemble it themselves.
Kids love to do it themselves. Even when doing it themselves results in disaster. They like the self-sufficiency that comes with a product like Lunchables. Make any meal into a Lunchables-like experience by allowing them to assemble their own sandwiches, top their own personal healthy conscious pizzas, and select their own vegetables or grilled protein to add to their pasta.
Allow the kids to pick their own fruits and vegetables.
Sure shopping with the kids can be a chore but allowing them to pick out their own fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmer’s market can be a great way for them to try something new.
Article courtesy of the culinary team at Chef Works, the leading supplier of culinary apparel for professional chefs and home cooks alike.