First, I should say that I’m not the biggest fan of the term “picky eater.” And neither is my friend Christina, who explains the objection more eloquently than I can…But some families are plagued with a plethora of food preferences. And while I don’t always cater to a finicky child, I do make accommodations sometimes.
Dinnertime has been challenging at our house lately. Our daughter has always had a very sensitive palate, and lately, our son is copying her resistance to the foods on the table. He is a fantastic eater when we are alone, but when she is at the table, he mimics her rejection of foods. If she claims that something is too spicy, he’ll avoid what he would otherwise dive into head first.
When I select which recipes to cook, I often need to make some changes. Here are my main reasons for adapting a recipe:
- I like to use seasonal ingredients.
- The level of spiciness needs to be adjusted so that it meets the lowest common denominator of the family. The rest of us can add in condiments or spices, as desired later.
- Texture – we like crunch.
- Whole Grains – I try to substitute whole foods for overly processed ones, when possible. (But that doesn’t relate to this recipe.)
Last night, I served Hawaiian Chicken along with a recipe for Green Cabbage slaw that I adapted from Everyday Food. You might wonder why I adapted the recipe. I was hoping for more peace at the dinner table. Pure and simple.
Plus, I was also taking the seasonality of the ingredients into account. It’s easier on the wallet and the planet to eat fruits and veggies that are available locally and in season. This recipe called for bell peppers, which are most readily available during the summer months. The ones that are in the stores now come from Mexico, and I’d rather not pay for their flight. Plus, bell peppers are on the Dirty Dozen list, which means that when they are grown conventionally, they retain chemicals from the fertilizer, soil and pest control used during their growth. Ick. This is one of a few foods that I eat organic or not at all. Something to consider…
The salad looked awfully monotone without the bell peppers, so I used a vegetable peeler to cut ribbons of carrots to adorn the greenness of the cabbage. The verdict? Mostly good. My daughter didn’t like the mustard that I added to the dressing, but said that it was otherwise edible. Not a ringing endorsement, but it got eaten without too many objections.
A few other tips for feeding a selective family:
- Serve everyone the same basic meal (family style), with everything on the table. (AKA – don’t be a short order cook.)
- Put sauces on the side, so that they can be added as desired without people complaining (or asking you to wash the pasta!)
- Reserve a few veggies or grains from a one-pot meal to serve on the side, in case your family objects to ingredients that touch.
Green Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Yogurt Dressing
Adapted from Everyday Food by What’s Cooking with Kids
1/2 head green cabbage
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
salt, to taste
- Using a sharp knife, slice the cabbage into thin ribbons and put them in a large bowl
- Use a vegetable peeler to the carrots into ribbons. Your kids can help with this. Add them to the cabbage.
- In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, vinegar, honey and salt.
- Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss with clean hands or tongs.
- Adapting this recipe: Reserve some of the dressing so that you can add stone ground mustard or other flavorful ingredients, and then add it to your serving.
Do you struggle with fussy eaters in your family? Please share any strategies that bring peace to your dinner table (or link to a post you might have written on this topic).
Next Friday, I’ll be talking about Feeding Challenges for Children with Developmental Delays – If your family is struggling, I hope you’ll come back. Thanks!