It’s easy to fall into a rut when it comes to meals, especially when time is limited. Most evenings you want what is fast and uncomplicated. When you add picky eaters to the mix, the rut-factor is doubled.
My sweet, naive pre-parent self asserted that this would not happen. I would encourage my child to develop diverse and healthful tastes! He/she will eat vegetables! And sushi! And tofu! Cut to the reality that is toddlerhood, where chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese are king. Toddlers are notoriously choosy about what goes on their plate and into their mouths. I have found that simply adding a few ingredients to basic every-day meals can make all the difference.
Chicken nuggets are an obvious kid favorite. In a stroke of genius (and fit of boredom), my husband concocted the mini-chicken parmesan. On the already cooked chicken nuggets, he scoops a spoonful of vegetable tomato sauce, and then sprinkles mozzarella cheese on top. Microwave for 30 seconds, and voila! Mini chicken parm. This is a delicacy in our household.
One nutritionally controversial and kid-loved side dish is the good old fashioned french fry. Instead of the typical white potato fries, we’ve found that sweet potato fries are a much healthier option and still very tasty. They are baked instead of fried. This recipe is super easy. We’ve found that making a big batch ahead of time and re-heating throughout the week makes it a very convenient addition to any meal.
Our toddler loves anything that can be dipped (or “dip-dip” as he so adorably calls it). Ketchup is an old stand-by and adored by our little one. But we also try to give him healthier options. For thinly sliced veggies or crackers, we let him dip into hummus, which comes in plain or flavored (love the roasted red pepper). And fruit slices can be dipped into yogurt.
We don’t deny relying on ‘old faithful’ mac and cheese every once in a while. But instead of simple noodles and cheese, we throw in an array of vegetables. As long as they are cooked well and thinly sliced, the cheese seems to mask them enough that our son will happily gobble them up. Miracles do happen, folks.
They say variety is the spice of life. But you don’t have to go completely out of your comfort zone to achieve variety. Sometimes it just takes a simple twist on an old favorite to add a little spice to any meal.
What are your ideas for fun kid-friendly meals or snacks?