For most parents, finding ways to encourage their picky eaters to try and enjoy new foods is a top priority. In fact, a recent survey showed more than 68 percent of registered dietitians who counsel new parents frequently receive questions about getting finicky eaters to eat at mealtime. And now, faced with a new school year, busy parents need more help than ever to ensure a nutritious, fast and convenient solution.
To help parents conquer mealtime battles, Tyson Foods and Robin Miller, author and Food Network host of Quick Fix Meals, offer the following “nuggets” of mealtime wisdom and finger food suggestions to help provide balanced nutrition and please even the pickiest of eaters:
1. Hands-on Food: Let’s face it—kids prefer to eat with their hands. Finger foods make ideal meals for kids since you can combine a variety of small portions on one plate. Try partnering protein-packed Tyson 100 percent All Natural Chicken Nuggets with vitamin-rich green beans and complex carbohydrate-rich pasta for a mouth-watering, nutritious meal that’s easy to eat with little hands. What looks like fun to your child is a well-balanced meal that you can feel good about serving.
2. Name Games: Giving fun, creative names to everyday nutritious foods may have kids asking for more! According to a 2009 Cornell University study, when kids were offered “X-ray vision carrots” instead of plain carrots, they ate 62 percent more carrots. Try adopting this approach in your own house by giving silly names to a variety of foods, such as “cloud fluff” for mashed potatoes or “cheese in the trees” for broccoli florets topped with cheese.
3. Muffin Tin Meals: Set up a “finger-food buffet” and have your kids pick the items they’d like eat. Start with a muffin tin (or any small container with compartments) and customize the meal by filling the sections with bite-size portions of colorful, nutritious foods. Some great food ideas include: cubed cheese, whole grain cereals, grapes, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Once you’ve filled the compartments, let them pick their items, allowing them to be hands-on with their meal.
In addition to Robin Miller’s tips, other moms have shared these creative strategies for building a foundation of balanced nutrition:
4. The Dipping Trick: “At mealtime, I have little metal bowls that I fill with dipping sauces and put them in the middle of the table for them to share. Whatever we are having, I always give them dipping sauces, such as ketchup, mustard or honey. As long as they can dip their food into one of these, they will eat anything. Sounds really simple, but works for my kids.”
5. Nutrition School: “I love to make it fun and educational for my kids to learn about nutrition. I ask them to figure out how many pieces of fruit or veggies make a serving. They read the label to figure out how many baby carrots, celery sticks, apple slices, strawberries, etc. they need to eat.”
6. Garden Fun: “Our children love chicken nuggets, but it’s often hard to get them to eat healthy side dishes. So, we started growing a vegetable garden. Now, they love running outside to see what healthy food is growing. For the first time ever, they are eating broccoli, beets, spinach, bell peppers, and other yummy home-grown food.”