How to Prepare Kid-Friendly Food
Between busy schedules and picky eaters, cooking for children can be a real challenge. How do you prepare a quick meal the kids will love without resorting to macaroni and cheese every night? How do you keep food fun, simple, and most importantly, nutritious? Many parents ask themselves these questions, and there are answers! Here are a few tips on how to prepare kid-friendly food and keep stress out of the kitchen.
One of the best time-saving tips for cooking is to plan ahead. If detailed meal planning seems daunting, start with jotting down a few meal ideas—ideally one week’s worth—and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand before the start of the week. If you often end up with leftovers after a meal, remember that these make great lunches and quick dinners! You may find that you don’t need to cook every night.
In addition, set aside a specific time, whether it’s an hour on the weekend or right after you get home from the grocery store, to do meal prep. For example, wash and chop hardy vegetables that you will need for the recipes you have chosen for that week. This is also an excellent time to cut veggie sticks, cheese cubes, etc. for snacks and school lunches throughout the week. If you can, set aside an afternoon or even an entire day to make meals and freeze them. Soups and casseroles work really well for this.
As mentioned above, leftovers are not a bad thing. In fact, some recipes lend themselves well to making extra large batches. You can make two meals at one time by doubling a recipe and putting half of it in the freezer for another day. For example, prep two dishes of lasagna and put one in the oven and one in the freezer or make an extra large pot of chili and two pans of cornbread. Baking muffins? Make a double batch!
If your kids often turn up their noses at the food you put in front of them, let them help choose what they eat. Ask for their input when you do your meal planning, and let them pick out fruits and veggies at the store or farmer’s market. Even simply asking, “Do you want cauliflower or green beans with supper?” can help them feel like they have a say in what they eat. Try setting up a make-your-own salad bar or a veggie tray with a dip to encourage picky eaters to eat more veggies.
Get Them Involved
Kids will get more excited about eating food when they help prepare it. In addition to letting them help in the planning process, get kids involved by giving them jobs to do in the kitchen. Younger kids can take on simpler tasks like stirring and mashing, while older kids may even be able to work through an entire recipe on their own (with perhaps a little help and supervision!). Homemade pizza is a great meal for the whole family to get involved with, from choosing the ingredients to sprinkling on the toppings.
Keep It Fun
Food that looks fun may not taste any different, but it’s definitely more exciting and appealing! Use bright, colorful veggies and fruit and cut or arrange food into fun shapes and designs, like heart-shaped biscuits or a smiley face on a pancake. Look for pasta that comes in fun shapes or colors to use in casseroles, soups, and other pasta dishes.
Introduce New Foods Slowly
If you want to introduce new foods to a picky eater, start slowly. Offer a small portion of the unfamiliar food at the beginning of a meal, which is when your child will be the most hungry and encourage them to take at least one bite if they seem hesitant. Make sure to introduce only one new food at a time, as presenting them with an entire meal of unfamiliar dishes may be overwhelming.
In addition, use some of the other tips listed above to make new foods more fun and exciting. Let your kids choose a new food to try, and get them involved in preparing it. Use fun shapes and colors to make it more appealing.
Cooking for your family doesn’t have to be stressful—in fact, it can be fun! Get your kids excited about nutritious food and spend more time with each other by cooking together. You can even let them help you get organized by giving input when you plan the menu or shopping list. With the tips listed above, preparing kid-friendly food becomes less of a challenge and more of an enjoyable adventure. Happy cooking!
Melissa is a freelance writer and food blogger at recipe-barn.com. She is very passionate about cooking, creating and sharing unique recipes or just simply cooking good food. Melissa has also developed an interest in a variety of other things including healthy diet and traveling in new places around the globe to experience different cuisines and learning different cultures.