…or a guaranteed way to make your kid an unhealthy, picky eater.
In one of my local ladies’ groups on Facebook put a call out the other day for donations to a local shelter. They had an influx of families and needed “kid-friendly” foods such as chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, corn dogs…you get the idea.
Reading that just totally rubbed me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, my kids (when they were young) were fed a few of these items and not infrequently. It’s just the whole idea that these are “kid-friendly” foods.
I fed all 3 of my kids by the following philosophy:
ALL Food is Kid-Friendly
With the exception of honey before age 1 and choking hazards for toddlers, kids can eat anything you can. Some may not tolerate spicy foods but many adults can’t tolerate spicy foods either. If it goes on your plate, it can go on your kids plate. Would you thrive on nothing but chicken nuggets and hot dogs?
Greyson is eating avocado, black beans and cooked carrots and appears to love it (or love wearing it!)
Kids Need to LEARN to Like Food
How do you know if your kid likes a food if they are never given a chance to try it? If your favorite meal is chicken cordon bleu, it might be your 3 year olds too.
All three of mine loved and I do mean LOVED fried okra. Sometimes I made it from scratch and in a cast iron pan of oil and sometimes I’d bake the frozen, grocery store variety so I could pretend it was healthy. Either way I know it beat the nutritional value of a corn dog any day. I once even picked up my youngest from high school with a plate of freshly fried okra straight from our garden. She was much happier than stopping for drive-thru fries.
Yes, there are picky eaters but just a quick Google search of ‘picky eaters’ will show that this is natural and temporary. A favorite food today will be refused tomorrow and eaten at every meal the day after that.
The best way to help a picky eater is to introduce new foods often. Try a new vegetable, grain or protein each week and add it to at least one meal a day for the entire week. This also works for picky teenagers or husbands (although maybe not EVERY day).
But I’m Eating ??? and I Know They Can’t/Won’t/Shouldn’t Eat This
That’s ok, but don’t resort to crappy processed food no matter how bright the box or even if ‘organic’ is on the label. You can feed a kid a healthy, varied diet very inexpensively.
My favorite for ages about 2 until whenever they packed their own lunches was what I called a Hodge-Podge Plate. The concept is simple, take a plate, divided container or several small containers. Put bite sized portions of a protein (egg, lunch meat, nuts, etc), a vegetable or fruit or both (cooked or raw), a small piece of cheese and small amount of grain (pretzels, crackers, rice, etc). This is a great container for lunches or on-the go, or these if you like to pre-prep lunches or meals.
Rocket-science, right? Yes, I actually fed my kids this long before Lunchables or Bento boxes were a thing. It’s not hard and you can make it as local, organic, seasonal as your inclination and budget allows. And, yes, it is ok if one of those elements is the same at every meal. My youngest was not a fan of meat. She ate a lot of nuts (nut butters when she was really small) and beans as her main protein source.
Don’t Sweat a Few Nuggets Here or There
Just make a balanced plate with them. All of my three (and me too) loved those little frozen corn dog nuggets. In fact we loved them so much I tried to appease my guilt and make them from scratch. Everything from scratch is healthier, right? We ate them on occasion but only a few and it counted as their protein. I still filled the rest of the plate with veggies and fruit, not just french fries or tater tots.
By starting early by offering your kids a wide variety of foods, you’ll train your family for healthier, more flexible eating. Who knows, you may even get a foodie or two out of the bunch. My oldest two love to cook and eat. My son is so much into food that he’s actively pursuing a degree in Hospitality. The youngest…well I’m still working on her!
This article is not a substitute for medical advice. This is only the opinion of a mother of 3, not a medical or nutrition professional.