So it was with great interest that Food Network's Healthy Eats blog posted an entry about getting picky eaters to chow down (here is a bit more information, although it's not the full article, which I'm pretty sure is all science-y and stuff). This information was far more valuable to me than the websites that say "Have your child help you in the kitchen," or "Be patient; be persistent." First of all, I'm not patient. Furthermore, while I can see that my kid is outgrowing all the clothes and shoes we buy her at a rate that will have us in the poorhouse in no time, I do always have that nagging voice in the back of my head, suggesting that HRH might be growing, but she's not entirely nourished.
Oh, and as for helping me in the kitchen - she's great with that. But just don't ask her to EAT what we just made. Unless it's a cookie. With chocolate. Then we're cool.
Instead of being patient, the study shows that kids like more colors and in a creative manner. So instead of the basic My Plate design (which, like most government designs, still wants for some "oomph"), simply making the food smile back or be in familiar shapes can make that food more palatable.
To say that kids are more inclined to eat something when it's presented in an artsy-fartsy way was pretty exciting to me. I'm not
So, I pulled out those cookie cutters (thank goodness for impulse buys in the baking aisle of the local craft store, right?), googled the heck out of "creative food presentation kids," and got to work. The results have been paying off.
- Cheese slices - much tastier when those pesky edges are taken away to make the forms of a dog, a cat, a bunny, or a flower.
- Peanut butter and pickle sandwiches (which always comes back with the single pickle still uneaten, yet she always has to have it) - so much more fun to devour when it's crustless (more on this in a minute) and in the shape of a fish.
- Apple slices - no longer slices but cars when two toothpicks and four blueberries are utilized.
- Strawberries - slice them up and put them on toothpicks, and it's like they are made of chocolate.
I even found some great blogs that are dedicated to making creative lunches for kids, like Bent on Better Lunches (most of these blog use the bento box as their inspiration, which I just love).
Oh, and the best thing ever, when you are three and want to be a picky-pants?
As much as I like busting out the chopsticks when we have an Asian dish, I would have never imagined that just letting HRH eat with these guys (her favorite pair is the Chimpsticks, which can convert into regular, not-connected chopsticks easily) would make such a huge difference in how much she'll eat. Even when I put together an assortment of food that isn't creatively sliced, diced, or otherwise finagled onto a toddler-pleasing bento-style plate, she generally eats everything if she can eat it with her chopsticks. And I have to say, because I'm one of "those" parents who likes to brag, she is pretty dextrous with them, too. I had visions of Zooey porking out because of how much food was going to drop to the floor, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the care that HRH gives to eating with those Chimpsticks (which are so popular I usually wash them twice a day; the goat is a mere backup).
Now, the one hesitation I have is the waste that this produces. Edges must be cut off of bread, etc. Zooey helps me a little in this area (she loves cheese), but I can't give her bread, so I have to either eat the remnants or toss them. I really don't like eating remnants, and sometimes, since I am eating my own breakfast/lunch/dinner, I'm not really hungry or looking for extra calories. So that stinks.
But I tell myself this won't be forever (please some rescue me if ten years from now HRH is still eating off that pink butterfly bento plate with her Chimpsticks), and as she gets older, I can teach her about the necessity of reducing food waste from purchase to preparation to presentation.
Which leads me to today.
I was able to run out to pick up my new book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hahn and Dr. Lilian Cheung, and, like always, I meandered through Changing Hands, just looking at all the great books and other Stuff I Want. And I came across Mr. and Ms. Food Face Plate (which, ironically, are made by the same people who brought us Chimpsticks).
I'm not sure I've ever been so excited about flatware.
Thus was borne HRH's new, improved afternoon snack:
That's blueberry earrings, strawberry lips, and a berry-clementine headpiece, in case you weren't sure.
The plates are basically the exact same thing as Wooly Willy, but a million times better because you can eat your creation each time.
Now, will this make everything that used to be refused suddenly The Most Delicious Thing Ever? Of course not. But if I can convince HRH to start trying new things, like scrambled eggs that serve as Ms. Plate's hair, I feel like that can be marked in the win column. I know that I was a picky eater, and while it's OK to have reservations (seriously, WTF is so good about cottage cheese?????), I want her to be at least willing to try something.
And have fun, too.