Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Art of Feeding Kiddos: A plate of three

Put a face on it

I've learned to feed my kids with the rule of three--put at least three choices on their plate and they're bound to fill their bellies. It doesn't matter how main course the main course is, if there isn't a fruit and veggie option to go with the pizza, it isn't lunch. That said, I've been pretty lucky with the foods my kids have tried, and often to my surprise, like to chomp.

Some of the best child feeding advice I've ever gotten I gleaned from random essays around the internet. "My nanny puts out a plate of fresh vegetables twenty minutes before it's time to eat," read one article. This seemed reasonable to me. I'm not too worried about my girls loosing their appetites on carrot sticks and cauliflower florets, though I'm not often so forward thinking as to pile up a veggie plate before every meal. Instead, when the kids come skulking about the kitchen looking for bites, I hand them whatever veggies I have prepped on the cutting board--broccoli trees and black olive finger puppets. Red pepper ribbons. Cucumber O's. 

There are things I never thought the girls would eat that have become, instead, hunger fail-safes: chick peas in a monkey dish, cashews on the side, radishes a la carte.

The hardest thing I had to learn about feeding the minis was to go against my own upbringing and not push the food Clean Your Plate style or to demand they eat something they just don't like. The rule of the house is to try one bite of everything, and decide from there. In time, they've opened their food noshing mouths to the likes of spinach crepes, and palak paneer, grilled asparagus, and potato leek soup. That to me is a pretty good start.

Do you have any favorite tricks for feeding kids or quick and easy recipes? What are your culinary fail-safes?


  1. Victoria,
    I'm guessing that while you were writing this lovely post (and creating such a great photo!), I was cooking up a batch of black beans and rice, wondering if I'd get the "pass" or "fail" grade. What I scored from one kid was more like The Great Divide: beans and amenities on one side of the plate, rice on the other. All that means is that I don't have any favorite tricks. My culinary fail-safe is noodles with butter and Parmesan (not so healthy).

    What I can appreciate from your post (and need to remember when I walk into the kitchen to cook dinner) is that it's okay if they lose their appetite over fresh veggies in a bowl.

  2. Christi,

    I'm constantly making something that gets a nose-snooty "I don't like that" before the first bite goes in, even if they've never seen it before and have no way of knowing by sight if they really like it or not. The only thing that's helped is having side dishes I know won't fail--usually at least one veggie and one fruit along with anything else I can think of. It's a constant learning experience and a lesson in frustration.

    And around here, mac and cheese will not fail.

  3. What good tips, Victoria! I want to eat at your house (and the paneer recipe is definitely one I am going to try). Something I learned is that children may have reasons for eating or not eating certain foods that we simply don't understand. Our son didn't eat chickpeas for a long time until I realized he thought they came from chicks. Garbanzo beans were much more palatable. :)

  4. Ha ha! You are so right, Lisa, and it can take a world of interpretation to figure out what those reasons are. For the first time in ages my oldest ate and requested more asparagus last night. Turns out she liked it with a new sauce I was trying out. As with everything parenting, trial and error wins.