Getting Kids to Eat What You Cook

Do you wish your kids would eat every meal you make at home with the same enthusiasm as they do at their favorite pizza place? Here are my tips for getting kids to eat what you cook (or some version) so everybody is happy.

Nobody wants to cook two separate meals every night. Putting dinner on the table is enough of an accomplishment at the end of the day! I've come up with a few tricks to getting my kids to eat the same food as us (relatively speaking) so that I can still cook the type of meals that I get excited about (which are often pretty creative compared to typical "kid food") and know that my kids will leave the table with full bellies. Because regardless of how ridiculous it is, I have a complex that I'm starving my kids if they don't eat a meal I made. Anyone else?

1. Make a kid-friendly version of whatever you're cooking.

Ok, this one sounds obvious but go with me here:

I don't always pick out recipes I know my kids will like. Sometimes I want to cook food that I know will be too spicy, or hard for my 2-year-old to chew, or whatever. I don't let their palettes (while expanding, they're still somewhat limited) dictate what the whole family eats. Instead, as I'm preparing a meal, I'll stop at points along the way to reserve out a small portion for them that is better-suited to their taste. This keeps me from cooking two different things. For example, if I'm planning to make something spicy, like Sambal Chicken Skewers, I'll reserve a portion of the marinade for the kids before I add sriracha to it for the adults. Then, I cook it all the same way.

When I'm planning meals, I use the notes page of my Seamless Meal Planner to keep track of how I plan to alter the recipe to my kids' liking.

2. Deconstructed meals are not just for fancy-schmancy restaurants.

If there's one thing that ALWAYS works, it's separating out the ingredients in a dish and arranging them in piles on a plate for my kids. For some reason when it's all mixed together, they act like I'm trying to feed them some kind of toxic sludge. But if I serve them the exact same food, all separated out, it's completely acceptable. Instances where this has worked really well: salads, buddha bowls, tacos, rice bowls, omelettes, pasta dishes... Kids are weird, man.

3. I always have my kids try at least one bite of whatever the adults are eating.

Then (when I remember) I ask them questions about it. "What does it taste like?" "Can you taste the ___ ?" "Is it crunchy?" "Is it smooshy?" That way, I at least know they're taking the time to taste and think about the food rather than simply swallowing a bite as fast as humanly possible so they can get on with dismissing it.

4. Don't give up!

You may have heard this before, but apparently a kid has to be offered a new food up to 15 different times before they may learn to enjoy it. So, keep offering new foods to your kids and don't make a judgement on whether they're being picky about it and just won't eat it until you've given it several tries. As long as you keep offering healthy foods, even if they don't love them yet, they'll grow to appreciate and recognize them, which will eventually become a taste for them.