Much of parenting is a sales job. Eating and meal time is often a sales job especially when you have kids. It is endless consumer/product motivational pitches and you can tell when an exhausted parent has been worn down.
Meal menus often become a family battle. My advice is to lighten up a bit. While you have kids, stay more flexible. The goal at meal time is not only to get your choice of calories into your family’s stomachs, mealtime is something far bigger…
Here are some sales tips:
#1. Think like a kid
Your kids do not care about all those fantastic nutrients they need to grow. But because you know doesn’t mean you can’t make meals that appeal to your children and still taste good and get in those vitamins–AND be enjoyable.
Rule 1: Face it, if you have kids you need to remember what it was like to eat like one. If you believe it is important to get your children to eat adult foods, you are in for some…moments. Let go a bit. Have some fun. Eating like a kid is so much funner than adult foods anyway. (If you go with this attitude you will be surprised what your kids will eat and enjoy–like lots of adult foods…)
Rule 2: Most kids like their food separate not mixed; usually not even touching. Kids like to know what they are eating and need to have choices, but not too many choices or they will drive you crazy and control the meal. Remember you are the boss. Just a nice boss.
Rule 3: Most kids like dips of all different kinds and cool ways to dip, including not bugging them about using fingers. Let them “experience” food because it is a full on sensory experience. You can still maintain manners but also use your own fingers on occasion. Isn’t that why napkins were invented? (Too many children these days are sensory-phoebic and cleana-phobics and become afraid to experience their senses, not only at meal times.)
Rule 4: If you have a finicky eater get them to help prep food in the kitchen. All tasting allowed. Finicky eaters are all about holding on to power so relinquish your need to be in control when its not that big of a deal. It is a tricky dance. You are in charge but let them think they are. But they MUST eat the food there–(remember you made something you know they will like before hand to have them want to be there you are just adding something new) Too many parents allow their children to chose a different dinner. You go down a very tiring road if you continue to do this. They control you then.
Rule 5: Supper time is family time and all need to be present at the table; no excuses unless you are a toddler. Even then, help them feel they are missing all the fun if they toddle off. This is one area there is no negotiation! Everyone is there at this time!
Rule 6: Meal time is to be relaxing and enjoyable at all costs. It is not a time to be frustrated or angry. Your food does not digest well if everyone is stressing and tense.
Talk Talk Talk. and Laugh Laugh Laugh.
#2. Make up names for some of your family meals just because it’s fun
Do children really ever like Chile? Yeserree when it is now called “Cowboy Dinner.” The sell is to tell them all cowboys eat this dinner out on the range. If you want to go crazy use pie tins and a big spoon to be authentic. Offer cheese and some cornbread with honey butter, some chips to dunk, or lovely french bread. Sell it baby.
Those noodles that have the cool Italian names, we changed them up. Bow Ties are Butterflies, wagon wheels are, well, wagon wheels, shells of all sizes are straight from the sea (ah-hem Mermaid food–adding tuna if your kids love it), pasta comes in letter shapes, and are thick and thin. It is so FUN! Use your imagination and put a story with that pasta. Your kids will eat it and love it.
Recipe 1: Pioneer Wagon Wheel Dinner (Don’t forget to sell it with a made up tale/ maybe about the Indians surrounding the wagon train and they smelled this this exact dinner cooking and the dinner was shared and they taught the kids how to use a bow and arrow….you get the idea).
1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
2 c. wagon wheel pasta
1 can 14 oz. stewed tomatoes
1 box frozen sweet corn
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste.
(Serve with corn bread or corn muffins)
Recipe 2: On nights I forgot to plan dinner I would often boil potatoes then cut them in cubes, ground some ground turkey with a small portion of onions (camouflaged) and mix the whole lot together and called it “French fries and Hamburgers.” I put a large jar of ketchup on the table with a whole dill pickle and no matter what vegetable I made with it– all of it was gone in a snap. I love that dinner!
#3. Food IS fun/(4 simple ideas)
Everybody loves the chance to help bake with a parent. But sometimes the parent is just too tired to have little hands help. That is okay. But keep in your pantry items that the kids can play with, involving foods, especially when it is the witching hour just before dinner.
- Baked Snowflakes (Or whatever happens next)
Fajita-size flour tortillas room temperature
1 T. Butter
Assorted colored sugars
1/2 c. powdered sugars.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Let your little artists use washed scissors to cut pretty snowflakes or shapes out of the tortillas. (Let them eat while creating)
Place the snowflakes on a cookie sheet, and let your kids brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle each one with assorted sugars or cinnamon and sugar mixed.
Bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve for dessert.
YUM! How proud they were to make!
2. Eat Breakfast for Dinner? YES SIR! Pancake shapes
My son makes pancakes in the shapes of his children’s first letters of their names or he spells words. (I can’t think of a better way to learn the alphabet!) He often puts food coloring in and adds some yummy toppings like syrup, whipped cream, etc. What a fun breakfast to eat! They could help flip, beat the batter, crack eggs, and pour syrup when they are old enough. Get a small measuring cup full of syrup. Let them pour, but you decide how much. They are going to pour it all–just so you know.
3. On occasion we had a “hard-times” dinner where we set the table with odd things from the kitchen. For example one person may get a pan lid for a plate or a 9×13 pan, a baby bottle or measuring cup for their dinner glass, and a whisk or ladle for their utensil. Use your imagination and pull out all sorts of funny things. Paper towels are the napkins, the table cloth is newspaper or plastic. Serve spaghetti because it is the messiest and laugh together as everyone struggles with their crazy dinner plates, cups, and utensils. We have done this with friends and it has been great fun. Especially when they were surprised.
4. How many peas? Mamma in this family hates green peas. But I want my kids to like them. So we have to eat as many peas as we are old. Of course I have to eat the most and the children make sure I eat every one. Then they keep on eating more.
#4. Hors d’oeuvres before dinner? Why not?
We all get grouchy before meal times because our blood sugar level is low and our gas tank is running on empty, sort to speak. Children begin to whine when parents are trying to hurry to get food made. It is a perfect time for you to offer foods to your kids that they may not usually eat. Make it simple.
Create a small plate of cut up fruit with yogurt dip or a vege plate with Ranch Dip in the center. Place it on the table and tell them they can eat it all while dinner is getting ready. If they fill up on that…great!
Birthday Candles- Hors d’oeuvres
cheddar cheese cut in one inch cubes, stick pretzels stuck in the cheese. Place on plate and sing happy birthday every time you serve them.
Kids LOVE to use little toothpicks or different types of utensils to poke the food like those corn holders. Roll lunch meat in a tube, stick with a toothpick and its now a gorgeous treat.
Bunny Carrots: A giant whole peeled carrot is no longer simply a carrot, it is a “Bunny Carrot” the best kind. Give with Ranch or let eat raw just like the bunnies. Let them peel. (You gotta learn sometime)
Pickles, olives, little beans or peas all are a blast with a toothpick and can be used for before dinner Hors d’oeuvres.
(Watch closely for children using toothpicks–they can do it, but be careful)
Even if your family has dietary challenges, food and dinnertime can still be enjoyable. You have to sell it.
Sell supper time.
It is worth every challenge.