I know this may come as an outrageous shock to everyone but……I love food. Obsessively. Always have. Always will.
And when I say love, I mean LURRRRRRRRVE.
From the moment I popped into the world I’ve been chowing down on something. At first it was milk but pretty soon after it was rice cereal followed by mashed pumpkin, all other vegetables, meat, fish, chicken, pasta, bread, grains and pulses. Then came EVERYTHING ELSE! I’ve never looked back. Do I like sweet foods? Yes! Savoury? Yes! Meat? Yes! Vegetables? Fruit? Yes! Yes! Yessity! Yes! I mean really, there is nothing that I will not eat…..Although I can’t say I get regular cravings for offal!
That said, I do understand that not everyone is the same as me. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve Mum, with a flushed red face, chasing my brother around the swimming pool with a plate of dinner trying to get “at least one spoonful” of whatever she’d cooked into him! He was laughing as he ran faster than she ever could and she was just, well, just INFURIATED! Being a Mum myself now, I can totally understand her pain.
Not only is it a hard enough job for parents to feed their children nutritionally balanced and all round healthy meals three times every single day (plus snacks!), it becomes even more nightmarish when you have to make everything taste delicious as well (or at least appear to!) Over the years I have discovered some awesome tips on how to get the not so favourite foods higher up on the “things i love to eat” list! Some of these tips have come from family, some have come from friends, some I’ve made up and some have been doing the rounds for years! A couple of them may work really well for you and others might not. It’s all about giving them a go. The results will be hit and miss, but at least one hit is better than none!
Phoodie’s Top Ten Tips for Fussy Eaters.
1) Make food fun! Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into shapes. Cookie cutters come in every variety and size imaginable so pop to your local homewares store or jump online and order your child’s favourite one’s. If it’s shaped like a heart my daughter will eat a salad sandwich (A SALAD SANDWICH FOLKS!) within 30 seconds and not blink!
2) Pizza. Everyone loves pizza. And what a brilliant opportunity to grate all vegetables known to man and incorporate them into your child’s dinner. Carrots and Zucchini work really well. I do kid’s pizza’s at least once every week. Aside from the fact that it’s pizza (woo hoo!) the kids really love “helping you” cook, and this is a real no mess – no fuss one to tackle with little people.
3) Spaghetti Bolognese. Like pizza above, everyone loves spag bol. And even more so then the pizza, this is a world class opportunity to get kilos of veges into the fussy eater. I use tomato, carrots, zucchinis, mushrooms, sweet potato, celery, eggplant and capsicum. I chop them all very finely (even grate some) and add them to the meat sauce. When they’re cooked I use my hand held mixer to pulse the final bolognese sauce so that all of the vegetables are pretty much unrecognisable. This means there’s no small fingers singling out a lone piece of celery saying “I don’t liiiiiiike celery!”
4) Cauliflower and potatoes are both white! So what?! You say. Here’s what! This means that when boiling your potatoes to mash them, you can throw in a piece or two of cauliflower and boil/mash it as well! When cooked, add some milk and a bit of butter, mash it all up and no one will be any the wiser! This works very well so long as you get the proportions right. Too much cauliflower and the taste is too strong. It’ll end up in the bin. Too little cauliflower and what’s the point? (You want to aim for about 1/4 cauliflower and 3/4 potato.)
5) Cheese makes things taste better. For example, each Thursday at my local Farmer’s market, I watch billions (ok maybe not billions, but lots) of children chomping on Turkish Gozleme. Turkish Gozleme is packed to the rafters with SPINACH!……and cheese! Somehow that delicious, salty feta assists them in consuming, by the bucketload, the iron rich dark green vegetable normally reserved for Popeye. Be creative, add cheese to your favourite family meals.
6) Potato can have a similar effect to cheese. For example, Instead of opening a tin of tuna and placing it in front of your child for dinner try to incorporate it into a pie, or fishcakes. A quick and easy tuna pie can be made by frying off a small amount of onion and garlic and then adding in the tuna and some frozen vegetables. Layer this in individual pie dishes, top with some béchamel sauce, lots of mashed potato and then sprinkle with cheese. Bake in oven until cheese melts.
7) Fresh juices are great snacks for kids. Instead of loading them up with too many sugary pieces of fruit, sneak in carrot and celery. Again, it’s about getting the proportions right. Carrot is strong, so in a child’s glass of juice always go for 1 carrot only. Add to this up to five stalks of celery, as celery is tasteless/sweet. Throw one orange into the mix and you’ve got the perfect kiddie combo. Fresh juices can also be easily frozen into moulds to make healthy ice blocks! (Image in gallery) Like the juice idea, soups are also a good way to get veges in. Instead of serving up a plate of boiled pumpkin, you’ll have more luck if you whip it into a soup and top it with sour cream! (Image in gallery)
8) Pasta is also a good “disguiser” of food. Sometimes if I don’t think my daughter is going to want to eat a whole piece of salmon with veges on the plate too, I toss the fish through pasta with crumbled broccoli and loads of ricotta and it’s eaten as a yummy pasta dinner rather than salmon with sides.
9) Another “make food fun” idea is to create characters, faces, ‘things’, animals on the plate. For example, my grandmother makes pinwheel sandwiches for all of the kids’ birthday parties. She packs them with healthy fillings and we are creative with the way we arrange them on the plate. For my son’s 1st birthday the theme was “Gardening” and we made a caterpillar of pinwheel sandwiches. They were gone in minutes! At the same party, instead of just serving an overwhelming platter of fruit, we separated the fruit skewers into 3 colours and served them poking out of watering cans – much more interesting! And for halloween just now, we ate cheese and tomato salsa on crackers, but instead of serving them the traditional way, we turned them into used bandaids! (Images in gallery)
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10) Be creative! If you don’t have time to sit back and dream up ideas, there are SO MANY great ones online. Browse for ten minutes and you are guaranteed to find lots of ways to have fun with food…. and be healthy at the same time!
After graduating from high school, Phoodie studied Interior Architecture at UNSW. She worked for several years as a designer before having the courage to throw caution to the wind and run, very, very fast to the Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London. She is a cookbook, restaurant, and all round food obsessed blogger and Mum of 2. She can be found posting recipes here, tweeting here, or on Facebook here .
Do you have fussy eaters?! What tips and tricks have you learnt over the years to combat the fussy eater in the family? Were you a fussy eater as a kid?