Like many of you during this crazy-time, I have been adjusting to working from home and balancing full-time life with my hungry kids. The days can feel long, and sometimes the next meal is the most exciting event on the agenda. My teens seem to finish their last bite of food at dinner and ask, “What’s for dinner tomorrow night?”. Yikes...no pressure.
Historically, as a mom, I’ve never been a meal-planner…I’m not one of those organized people that plans a week of meals in advance. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants chef, typically deciding on dinner based on what’s left in the fridge. This has changed significantly for me during this pandemic. Here’s why:
Enter the new me! I find myself mapping out the week for my ravenous teenagers trying to come-up with affordable, stress-free meals that everyone will enjoy.
As a feeding therapist, I spend a lot of time in sessions with parents discussing meal-planning and food ideas to help with picky eating. Parents are always very appreciative of new food suggestions, as we are all guilty of getting stuck in a food-rut and offering the same things over-and-over at home.
For this week’s blog, I thought I’d share some food ideas. Rather than specific meals and recipes, I have suggested foods based on your child’s developmental stage and the food texture you are offering. Feeding is a developmental process and the lists below may provide you with some guidance as you move from purees, to mashed, to finger foods.
You can puree almost anything. I’ve seen families puree pizza. Just let your imagination run free! I often encourage families to puree some of the foods that they are eating during the family meal so their child can get used to the taste of family foods.
By using the back of a fork and you can quickly and easily create a range of mashed foods. They are fun for little hands to put it and bring to their mouth. Try rolling mashed foods into little balls for your child to pick up. Adding a few bread crumbs helps the food stick together.
If your child tends to eat small amounts and you want to boost calories (and add flavour) try adding a small amount of healthy oils and fats or offer dips and spreads:
Offer a rainbow of foods on your child’s plate. Bright, colourful food presentation may increase your child’s interest. My husband always says, “We eat with our eyes.” If you have a child that will only eat certain coloured foods, use food chaining to present other new foods that are similar in colour (e.g., child likes white foods: offer banana, hummus on toast, cauliflower).
Try various shapes to observe your child’s response. You can use cookie cutters to make fun shapes with bread, cheese, fruit, and meats. As a toddler my son would only eat foods that were cut into long, skinny strips. I used to cut everything into french-fry sized pieces and call them “french-fry cheese”, “french-fry chicken”, “french-fry toast.”
Observe your child’s texture preferences. If your child tends toward crunchy foods, you can offer dried fruits or crunchy vs cooked vegetables. Try breading meats and veggies and pan frying them to create a crispier texture.
I frequently suggest that client’s print out the food lists that I provide and post it on the fridge to give them fresh ideas. Some families keep a copy on their phone and pick a couple of items from the list when grocery shopping. We know through the research that kids are more likely to accept foods when they have been exposed to it multiple times, so there’s it’s a good thing to repeat and rotate the same foods; however, it’s also fun to try presenting new foods to your little one and observe if the novelty inspires interest. Remember the 75/25 rule (link): present your child with approximately 75% of familiar food on their plate along with 25% of something new. This will allow them to feel safe that they have something familiar to eat, but also allows an opportunity to present something novel.