Archive for the ‘Cooking With Kids’ Category

I continue to refer to my toddler as a picky eater, but in reality I can honestly say I think most toddlers are picky.  As babies they happily ate up most anything you put in front of them.  As babies, everything is new, some new exciting texture, taste, and smell.  As toddlers, they realize they have their own personalities, their own likes and dislikes.  Anyone with a toddler will tell you they are hardheaded, strong willed.  My toddler would personally live off graham crackers and milk all day every day if I gave him the ability to choose. 

 

I find myself often times frustrated at his lack of desire to try different things.  Toddlers like routine, and change is a hard concept.  For some it’s harder than others.  “They” say that toddlers take up to 3-4 times of seeing something new on their plate to try it.  Who is “they” anyways?  And “they” clearly haven’t tried feeding my picky eater.  So, being the creative mama I am I watched my sons eating habits, focused on things he liked and didn’t like.  He prefers to drink his food; he loves “shakey’s” also known as milk with some sort of protein powder.  He loves his milk, and prefers to drink his food rather than eat.  Who can really blame him, drinking takes less time than sitting down to eat, and his little busy mind has things to do and places to see!

I was worried he wasn’t in taking enough healthy calories because of his inability to try new things.  Some days it seemed like he would only eat a bite of bread and maybe 4 goldfish and call it a day.  I talked to his pediatrician who said he was thriving, and growing so to try not to worry, and continue to offer him healthy meals.  Out of desperation and frustration I started making him smoothies and shakes.  The options are really endless, with different fruits, juices, milk, almond milk, you name it.  He also is at the age where he loves to help.  Mixing and pouring can keep him busy for hours, so I put him to work helping to pour different fruits, milk, and juices into the blender.

I purchase a sugar free vanilla, or chocolate protein powder to add some healthy calories into his smoothies and shakes.  There are so many different options but I’d like to share a few of our favorite recipes below. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (or sugar-free carnation instant breakfast)

1 tbsp peanut butter (if your child is allergic you of course would want to skip this)

½ banana

Mix all ingredients, and enjoy!

 

Another staple smoothie in our house is:

Berry Smoothie

1 cup milk

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or vanilla carnation instant breakfast)

½ cup mixed berries

¼ fresh spinach

Mix all ingredients, and enjoy!

 

Like I mentioned above, options are really endless.  You can use mango, strawberries, add a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Experiment, and let your children experiment with you as well.  And most importantly enjoy these special moments with your children, they go much to fast!

There are so many different reasons why you should involve your kids in the kitchen. My number 1 reason is because I like to spend time with my kids while I am cooking and they enjoy helping. It does make more of a mess and typically takes longer, but in the end we have something we are all proud of and can’t wait to sink our teeth into.

  • Cooking helps create healthy habits that last a lifetime
  • Create memories. Some of my best memories of my Grandmother were of us cooking at her house
  • Teach kids math skills. Even young kids can learn what a cup of milk or flour looks like
  • Kids learn to follow directions
  • Cultivate organization/planning skills
  • Increase self esteem: Kids are proud of what they make

These are just a few of the many reasons why it is important to teach your children this important skill. By cooking things together, you are also cutting out some of the processed foods out of their diet. Just remember, start small. One of my daughter’s favorite thing to make with me is Jello pudding. All you have to do is add two cups of milk to the mix and stir it.  She loves that she made it and it gives us a chance to clean up while it is setting. Instant gratification.

Enjoy. You will be amazed all the different things you can teach your kids while you are cooking together. Texture, color, taste, etc. Make learning fun!

There are kids out there who would rather not be blessed with a giant meal of turkey, gravy, stuffing, all the trimmings of that great Pilgrim meal known as Thanksgiving. Believe it or not some kids are just too picky to enjoy that multitude of tasty treats, and need a little help when it comes to their sensitive palates. But what mom is going to want to make TWO Thanksgiving dinners? I mean you spend at least eight hours cooking that first one, from roasting the turkey to mashing the taters, you barely have time to eat yourself, before rushing to clean up dishes and leftovers for twenty people.

The other option, it seems, is to throw a handful of turkey TV dinners in the microwave and let the kids sit at the kiddie table with their cousins and siblings and enjoy some lukewarm turkey flavored meat chunks and less than appetizing frozen mashed potato like substance. Its amazing how easily that kids will eat a TV dinner but refuse to eat something truly delicious like corn pudding or cranberry sauce. Here are a few ideas to make your Thanksgiving kid friendly.

The Turkey

As tasty as a turkey is, some kids just don’t like it. Whether its the texture or the flavor, the likelihood of a child in tears saying “EWWWWWW” could be pretty strong at your family table this Thursday. So what’s a mom to do? Try cutting your kids turkey into very small chunks and mixing it in with stuff that you know they like, hiding it in the mashed potatoes, or dousing it in the almighty equalizer known as ketchup. I’ve known a family that convinced their kids that the turkey was not in fact turkey, but chicken, and wouldn’t you know it those kids ate every last piece. Or try giving each kid a chunk of Turkey leg, sometimes the interest of having the leg to hold onto can be a great factor in deciding whether or not your young ones will eat it.

Mashed Potatoes

I have never met a kid that didn’t LOVE mashed potatoes, but just in case, there are a few things you can do to make your meal a little easier on the ears. Stop that chorus of “I’m not eating that” by offering a simple substitution of sweet potatoes instead. That bright orange color and sweet nutty flavor can make any kid happy, and expecially when you mix it with some of the stalpe ingredients known to accompany sweet potatoes, like brown sugar, spicy cinnamon and yummy marshmallows. Or try mashing some freshly steamed cauliflower, with a pat of butter on top it looks just like the real thing, and you can even add gravy to it with no problems. If its the trimmings that your kids don’t like, try making just a plain batch of potatoes for them, minus the chives, bacon bits, or other additions that your family might enjoy this holiday.

Veggies

No one hates green vegetables more than kids. Well maybe the McDonalds corporation, but thats another topic for another post. Veggies are tough to get your kids to enjoy on any day, and the hectic scheduling of your Turkey Day meal may leave you just exhausted enough to give up on the green beans and hand over the dessert. But little do you know that kids can have fun with their veggies and eat every last bite before you portion that pumpkin pie. Try offering green bean casserole with yummy french fried onions on it, or a corn pudding instead of the usual corn on the cob.  Make a colorful and tasty rainbow plate of veggies with yellow squash, yellow red and green pepper slices, yummy dark green snow peas, white cauliflower chunks, orange carrots, and red apple, even add some fruits like fresh blue berries to even it out!
The main parts of your Thanksgiving meal do not have to inspire a battle of wills. You and your loved ones can sit down to a wonderful meal and you can know that your kids will enjoy every last bite, so that you won’t feel bad about dishing out that apple pie a la mode at the end of the night. Now if only having them help you clean the kitchen was this easy!

Happy Thanks giving!

One of the defining moments of any toddlers life is eating with the family. But a lot of times this happy occasion can become a battle of wills between chef and patron. Young children look to express their own individuality, push the boundary limits, and develop different tastes all at the same time. This “perfect storm” of developmental trademarks can be difficult to bear, especially for a working Mom or Dad who has limited time to be standing at the stove. Here are a collection of tips and tricks to help your child eat more with less coaxing, bribing, crying, and tantrums.

1: Know your kid, and respect his/her unique tastes and moods. Not all toddlers eat the same things, even kids in the same families will have widely varied opinions on what tastes good. Your five year old might not have had a problem with cheese sticks, but your 2 year old thinks they are the grossest thing in the fridge. Realize that your child may not be hungry, may not feel up to trying a new food, or might just simply be a “stick in the mud” about the item you are presenting, for reasons you may never understand.

2: Keep it scheduled. It helps if you eat at the same time every day, in the same spot. Try to limit meal time to the dining room table, to create a good habit, and don’t let your kid snack for an hour or so before the meal. A child that is hungry will be much more willing to try new and different foods than a kid who is full of chips or juice and just pushing the food all over his or her plate.

3: Be patient. Remember that pickiness is usually short term,  is not going to harm your kid unless they refuse to eat absolutely anything, and that nine times out of ten they will not starve if they live on just chicken nuggets for a week. If your child complains of pain or anything unusual after eating a food consult your pediatrician, as it could be a sign of a food allergy.

4: Enjoy the meal and make it fun. Make dinner time fun for your kid. Use their own nifty plates or toy cups, or give them a strange looking fork to eat with, or have a “fingers only” night.. Use bite size pieces to encourage nibbling, and consider giving your child his or her own mini table and chair to eat at. Kids who sit with their feet on the floor are more likely to focus on the meal than be distracted.

5: Channel his/her inner chef. Let your child help your prepare the meals. Nothing helps you out with picky eating like letting your kids have a hand in creating the meal. Even if it is just stirring a small bowl of mashed potatoes with a big rubber spatula after they’ve been cooked, your kid will develop a sense of pride over having achieved something and taking part in a “grown up activity”, therefore being more willing to continue on that path with trying the food that they’ve made.

6: Be a role model. Kids will be more open to new things if they see you enjoying them.  Use a wide range of colors and textures in your meal plans, and comment on how you experience them, not just focusing n whether or not they are yummy. And remember that some studies have proven pickiness to be genetic, so if you don’t like peas, there’s a good chance Jr. won’t either.

7: Camouflage. When all else fails, try sneaking in a new veggie into a favorite food. Mac’n’cheese hides plenty of different things with its bright orange sauce, and small bits of broccoli in things like spaghetti or chicken stir fry will be better received to your child instead of alone in all its green glory on their plate. Fish can be breaded and deep fried to look like “chicken nuggets”, and spaghetti squash can be easily mistaken for.. well… spaghetti!

8: Keep them focused. Food that has to fight for your child’s attention is going to go to waste. Turn off the TV at mealtimes and limit toys and games to their playroom during dinner. Make the meal a family event, and be firm on this one, because it will help with more than just picky eating on a long term basis.

9: Dessert is not a reward. Fight the age old saying, “If you finish that you can have this.” Kids who are already happy eating sweets and are resisting blander items such as veggies or proteins are not going to be helped by encouraging ice cream or cake as a reward for swallowing a single bite of broccoli. If you must use this technique try different items like yogurt or fresh fruit. Starting them on healthy eating patterns at a young age helps fight the national epidemic of obesity.

10: Resist the urge to make a separate meal for your child. A lot of times kids look at this as a form of attention, and catering to their needs might help you short term with eating, but when you need to carve out an extra twenty minutes every night for a single meal, you will easily and quickly tire of it. Families that eat as a unit are statistically proven to be stronger, and have a closer knit bond.

11: Smoothies. If you are seriously worried about your child lacking in nutrition, putting together a wide range of ingredients into a tasty smoothie is a good solution. Of course avoid anything that could be contaminated, like raw egg, and after your child is done, remind them of what you put in the smoothie for them. Broccoli mixed with strawberry banana yogurt and milk doesn’t taste too bad!

12: Crazy shapes and colors. This goes along with making dinner fun. Use cookie cutters to cut those cucumber slices into neat little shapes, or buy pasta in funky wheels, wiggles or swirls. Use food coloring to make bright pink mashed potatoes for your princess, or green eggs and ham for your Dr. Suess lover.

13: Make veggies a central focus in your home. Plant a garden. Encourage your kids to watch the steps of the growing process, from seed to produce. Try making different things at home, like butter shaken from whole milk, or try making cheese.

14: Use others as an example. Bring over older kids or cousins that are more than happy to show your picky eater what eating like a big kid means. Your child will be much more likely to want to prove themself instead of fighting you.

15: Dont take it personally. Food is going to be a battleground if you accept the blame. Realize that this is a temporary phase, and that eventually your kid will grow out of it. Take the time to learn more about your child, and bond over the stove.

These tips and tricks can help you get through mealtimes and make them more enjoyable for everyone.

For more information and insight on picky eaters please visit:

The Mayo Clinic

Ask Dr. Sears

For great little plates, cups and dishes to use for your kids please click here:

Constructive Eating

Food Face