Tools and gadgets to keep in your kitchen when cooking for picky eaters, plus a mix and match meal list
Got a fusspot when it comes to food? We all do! Use our tool kit for getting a healthy meal into all your kids every night (pretty much, anyway).
Stock Your Kitchen
These gadgets and staples will make the selling of dinner so much easier. Watch their eyes (and mouths!) open wide.
Parchment Paper Cooking fish in parchment paper happens to be a brilliantly simple and easily customizable way to make an entire dinner. But we also find we have great success when we use it to get the kids excited about vegetables. Place on it whatever you have (green beans, snow peas, sliced carrots, and sliced zucchini all work well); add salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon; and wrap it as the deli wraps a sandwich-folding the sides underneath. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and you have "vegetable presents" that can be unwrapped with great fanfare at the table.
Eggcup The more fun the design, the more fun the experience will be for your child, of course, but even a plain one will give the humble egg the elevation you have been looking for. Try serving hard-or soft-boiled eggs in them.
Saltcellars and Shot Glasses We don't pretend to know why, but kids have trouble resisting the minuscule. So why give them a snack in one big bowl when you can do it in two or three or four or six little ones? Ditto for drinks! Sipping their milk from two tiny glasses will feel much more surmountable than it would from one standard-size cup.
Toothpicks, Skewers, Corn Holders Try this arsenal of smallish spears with whole fruit, cubed cheddar, chopped veggies, and whole apples and watch your SRC (success rate of consumption) rise accordingly. Note: The only thing corn holders shouldn't be used with is corn. Way too predictable. And it goes without saying that no one will win a MacArthur for giving something sharp to a baby or toddler.
Flashlight On particularly desperate nights, kill the lights, arm your little superhero with a flashlight in one hand and a fork in the other, and have him attack any villainous last scraps of dinner to save the day.
Takeout Containers and Chopsticks Serve your "Mom! Chicken and broccoli again?" in these. Added fun: Ring the doorbell before you serve, and pretend it's a delivery. Chopsticks, of course, can be used at any time of day on almost anything to improve your chances of success. Put a rubber band around the ends to make them easier to maneuver.
Cocktail Umbrellas In the milk glass or on the broccoli-there's nothing a pretty parasol can't upgrade. A fleet of them stuck into corn bread makes your starch look like a delightful, edible summer beach.
Votives Set their melamine plates on one of your finer (washable) tablecloths, dim the overheads, light some candles, and call it Restaurant Night. The atmosphere might get them feeling adventurous, and the lighting might hide the parsley (aka "green stuff") you forgot to omit from the sauce.
Straws Swirly ones, straight ones, boring ones, colorful ones. It doesn't matter-as long as they are inserted into liquid, they will make anything more drinkable. Ikea has a rainbow pack of 200 that's so cheap it's practically free; they look particularly fun when stored in a glass jar on the countertop.
Next: Mix 'n' Max Meals Just choose one healthy staple from each category and — genius! — you've got a balanced meal.
Choose one item from each category for a balanced meal.
Pick one Protein:
- Cheese sticks
- Chicken tenders
- Canned beans
- Canned tuna
- Tofu hot dogs
- Nut butter
Pick one Veggie:
- Baby carrots
- Jarred salsa
- Cherry tomatoes
- Frozen spinach
Pick one Complex Carb:
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Frozen brown rice
- Multigrain bread
- Baked blue-corn chips
- Rice noodles
- Frozen corn