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Make kids happy at mealtime

By Staff
Michelle Blaylock, Mom's Corner
Dear Mom's Corner,
How do you make all your kids happy at mealtime? I have two and they are so picky, I can't find anything to fix other than hamburgers, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese that doesn't cause a fuss. My husband is getting really upset and says I should just fix a meal and the kids can eat it or go hungry. What do you do with your six kids?
Dear JKP,
First of all, my kids are not always happy at mealtime. Secondly, I have some of the world's pickiest eaters! And thirdly, my husband gets upset with me, too, because I try to cater to the kids. In an effort to keep the fussing at a minimum and to preserve my marriage, I've come up with a few strategies that help. Well, most of the time, anyway.
I do different things depending on the time of year and how much time I have to devote to meal planning. One thing I try is to plan meals around a theme. I will have Mexican night. I have the fixings for hard and soft-shelled tacos, burritos, enchiladas and nachos. John and I like the enchiladas, but none of the kids do. I have two that eat only the burritos, one that eats only the nachos, one that eats only the hard shell tacos, one that eats only the soft shell tacos and one that eats anything I put in front of him (except the enchiladas). Another meal I can easily do for everyone is spaghetti or pasta. I have some that use regular tomato based sauce, others that use only alfredo (white sauce), and hubby and I like meat sauce.
OK, that being said, I can't always do that. So then comes plan B. If it is a week where we're going to be home in the evenings, then each child is given a night to plan a meal. This way everyone gets what they want at least one night out of the week and you can't fuss about what someone else picked because you get a turn, too.
I have one child who is just incredibly picky. I think she could live off pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and bread (just about any type). So she and I finally came to this agreement: If you don't like what's being served, you can wait until everyone else is done and then you can fix your own meal. However, you must clean it up and fix it for anyone else who wants it. This has been a fairly good arrangement. By the way, this is plan C.
Don't get me wrong, you need to introduce your family to new dishes and provide a variety of foods. When I do find a new dish I want to try, I usually make just enough for John and I. Why? Well, children typically want what's on your plate-at least mine do! I usually place the food on my kid's plates before we sit at the table. I don't give them any of the new dish. It is only on mine and John's plates. Usually about half way through the meal I hear, "What's that? Can I try some?" I reply with, "I really just made enough for your daddy and I, but I'll give you a bite or two." Do they always like the new dish? No, but at least they WANT to try it. Obviously, this works better with younger kids. We also require that if you don't care for a dish or food, you simply say, "I don't care for it." I don't tolerate, "yuck," "gross," "disgusting," etc.
There are some things that I can fix that everyone will usually eat, like veggies and dip, fruit, cheese trays, fresh breads, etc. I also try to schedule a snack night every couple months, usually on a weekend when I know I'm going to be incredibly busy. What's a snack night? I have things ready to munch one like little smokies in barbecue sauce, tortilla chips and salsa, chips and dip, veggies and dip, fruit and cheese tray, etc. The kids love this. I love the break.
Speaking of the veggies and dip, here's my kids' favorite veggie dip. It was given to me by a dear friend years (like 13) ago. I don't know where she got it, but we love it!
Mary's Veggie Dip
1 cup Hellman's Mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 package (dry) Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
Mix thoroughly, refrigerate overnight. If you don't like the texture of the cottage cheese, you can also put this through a blender to get a smooth texture.
I hope these suggestions help your family. Thanks for the letter.
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