I know a lot of people who are upset because their kids survive on chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese (from a box) or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Instead of feeling hopeless or upset, why not make some small changes to your child’s diet /palate and introduce them to a REAL FOOD version of their favorite processed food? The first attempt may or may not work but if you keep trying, I promise you that they will start eating and enjoying REAL FOOD.
I have a VERY picky eater who may or may not eat dinner depending on what’s put in front of her. This may seem cruel but I don’t make anything special for her because I know that eventually, she (like most people) will learn to override her childhood aversions and appreciate all kinds of things, like roasted vegetables, lettuce and maybe even a nice red wine. I always give her gentle nudges into more adventurous eating and try not to be pushy. For now, she still prefers “kid food,” and when I serve it for dinner, I make it from scratch. This way, at least I know she’s getting something nutritious that isn’t loaded with salt and preservatives. It’s the salt and preservatives that have your child addicted to processed “kids food!”
What am I doing exactly to change my picky eaters preferences? To start, I try and always serve food that isn’t processed or pre-packaged. I also don’t bargain with her –it’s no longer in vogue to bargain with kids, telling them that they can have an Oreo if they finish their spinach. Forcing them to choke down all of their dinner will only send the message that food is just a means to an end, rather than something that might actually be enjoyable.
The important thing—and here’s where it gets tricky—is you need to strike a balance between persuasive and argumentative. Although small children are more willing to try new foods, by the time they hit the age of two, saying no is their way of asserting independence. You don’t want to signal to them that trying beets is massively important to you, or they may decide to make avoiding it a defining feature of their personality. Instead, I try and put several options on their plates. For example, I might make chicken nuggets with a side of string beans and a chive vinaigrette salad. I know Spud will eat the nuggets and I hope that she will at least try the rest. In addition, I think having a family meal together, where the kids see you eating varied things, will inspire them to do the same.
Lets get back to homemade Mac & cheese: in my house, my kids ask for boxed Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese all of the time. I have to say it again: powdered cheese and enriched pasta is just bad for you, even if it’s organic. In keeping with my philosophy to serve them REAL FOOD, they are still kids who want pasta with cheese that tastes good. And so, I have been playing around with various homemade macaroni and cheese recipes. Anything complicated or with meat or vegetable additions are a “no.”
Recently, I tried this SUPER EASY recipe and Spud, my picky eater, declared it to be “absolutely, without a doubt it’s THE BEST non-boxed mac and cheese EVER.” So if you are working towards including more REAL FOOD your child’s diet, take a baby step and try some homemade, Spud approved macaroni and cheese. Sometimes it’s just the small things…
I suggest you serve this with a side of kid approved brussel sprouts and small salad.
First, make the pasta according to the package directions. You don’t have to use the corkscrew kind, you can use penne or elbow or shells. Whatever floats your boat… then add the butter and cheese and stir to combine.
Add the egg and milk mixture and stir to combine.
The cheese might clump a little.. no worries…
Pour the pot contents into a large baking dish and top with cheese. Spud likes to help with this part. Next, put it into the oven to bake…so yummy..
Picky Eater Approved Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 cups uncooked, whole-wheat fusilli pasta
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 2 eggs
- 1/2-cup low fat milk
- PAM for greasing
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease a small baking pan with PAM.
- Cook macaroni in boiling salted water, following package directions.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with the milk, set aside.
- Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot.
- Add butter and stir until melted.
- Add 2 cups of the shredded cheese and stir to melt.
- Add the milk and egg mixture to the macaroni.
- Stir until well combined.
- Spoon into the greased pan.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned and it’s bubbly.