If you find yourself making different meals for different family members, then rest assured that you’re certainly not alone. You definitely can put an end to ‘short-order’ cooking. It is possible to get your family eating one delicious, flavoursome meal and saving a lot of time, stress, and frustration on daily basis. I’m all about one family meal that is full of flavour, easy to make and healthy!
Having to prepare different meals for different family members is time consuming, tiring and often results in mealtimes not being a family experience as it makes it harder for everyone (including the cook J) to sit down at the same time.
Here are my top 10 tips for making meals for the whole family:
Eat together as a family
Eating meals together as a family is powerful; it is a fantastic bonding opportunity and eating together allows positive role modelling, exposes little ones to a wider variety of food and can help reduce picky eating. It also allows families to connect with each other without other distractions.
Babies and children learn so much through role modelling, it is so important for them to have the opportunity to see their family enjoying the food that you want them to eat.
Deconstructing meals is a brilliant strategy for enticing kids and making mealtimes more fun.
Laying everything out individually and then letting them choose what they are going to eat grants them independence, confidence, and controlled choice so they don’t feel the pressure to eat but do still get the exposure! If they can put together the components that they want, then they’ll be more likely to try it.
Toddlers and kids sometimes won’t eat meals that are mixed, because mixed foods can be unpredictable, and don’t know what to expect from the experience.
Some children can feel apprehensive seeing too much food on their plate so sectioned plates like the frog plate from Nuby’s eco-friendly rice husk range are a great option as they allow for small servings and your little one can clearly see everything on their plate without feeling overwhelmed.
Always include a food they enjoy
When serving meals, always make sure there is a component they really enjoy. Serving unfamiliar or finalised foods alongside foods they enjoy takes away the pressure and can encourage them to try something new. Including a favourite food lets your child know that this is a meal they can handle and that there is something on offer that they can eat.
Nuby’s rice husk range has a sectioned frog plate which is a favourite of ours and is great for ensuring that one section has a familiar food that they enjoy so that they don’t feel overwhelmed.
Fun plates & cutlery
Increasing the fun factor and getting a little bit creative with some simple and easy ideas can really help turn mealtime battles into mealtime fun and make eating and mealtimes a little bit easier and more exciting for your little ones!
Nuby’s eco-friendly rice husk range has such a cute frog on the plates and cutlery that little ones will certainly have fun eating meals from it! Creative plates and utensils are a brilliant way of combining fun with food thereby helping keep little ones engaged.
Presenting food in a fun and unusual way
You can cook the same meal for you family but present it ‘age appropriately’ at mealtimes.
Kids are just like us and eat with their eyes first. Making food fun and exciting results in meals being more appealing thereby encouraging them to try a wider variety and eating what’s on offer for the whole family.
You can try serving up their food in a fun way; mini cookie cutters are a great way to add some fun to a meal! There are so many ways to get creative with presentation. Serving the same meal to your little but with the veggies cut into fun shapes can go a long way in piquing their interest coupling this with fun tableware like the frog plate, utensils, and tumblers in Nuby’s rice husk range can keep little ones engaged and enjoying the same family meal.
Kebabs aka ‘serve it up on a stick’ is another quick and easy way to boost the fun factor!
Fruit or vegetable kebabs are always so much more appealing than a bowl of fruit or veg. It’s also a good opportunity to serve up new or unfamiliar foods and serve it up with a dip for a perfect combination of fun and function.
Spirals and grating are other quick and easy ways to present food in a different way. Broccoli is a good example: Roast it! Serve it raw and grated! Slice it! Put it on skewers! There are so many options!
Talk about the food with them
Talk about HOW the food we are eating tastes instead of asking them if they like it or not. For example, ‘What is it like?’, ‘Is it crunchy?’, ‘Is it soft?’, “I think it’s juicy like a watermelon”.
Sometimes with a new food you can compare it to something they already know, “Is it crunchy like a carrot or soft like a banana?”, or “Can you crunch it really loudly or mush it between your teeth?”.
This can make the new food seem less daunting, especially when they see others at the table enjoying it too.
Get kids in the kitchen!
Meals for the whole family can be as much about the cooking as the eating! Cooking together can be an amazing learning opportunity for little ones.
Getting your kids involved in the cooking process provides them with opportunity to learn to appreciate food and exposes them to a whole variety of foods, by helping to prepare it they can learn about food and therefore more likely to try new foods.
Taking an active role in choosing, preparing, and cooking meals can really help children feel empowered, and in turn encourage them to eat a wider variety of foods, especially if they are picky eaters.
Getting them involved in the shopping can be a great way to for them to see a whole variety of fruits and veggies they might not otherwise see. Giving them a little list of things to look for can be fun. You could even ask them to pick out one new food they’d like to try!
Provide a “no thank you” bowl
Sometimes the taste, texture or even the size of the food can be a turn off for little ones. To take away the pressure of different foods on their plate you can offer a “no thank you” plate or bowl. You can explain to your little one that if they don’t want something, then that’s completely ok and that they can put it into the “no thank you” bowl. This can be for any food they don’t want to try; this teaches them that it is okay if they do not like or want to eat a certain food and you might just find that even though they put something in this bowl, they may go back for it to eat it after a while!
Add plenty of flavour!
When making meals for the whole family, they need to appeal to everyone! Vibrant, flavoursome, and nutritious meals can help to cultivate adventurous eaters who enjoy a range of flavours, textures and are excited by food!
Introducing bold flavours early on is essential as they add flavour and dimension to food, and you may find they enjoy food they wouldn’t usually eat!
Before serving, you can add a sprinkling of chilli flakes or cayenne pepper to give adult portions a kick. The same goes for salt, just omit salt while cooking and then it add it to adult/older kids portions when serving. This makes cooking one family meal so much easier!
If you are starting out with purees, you can simply pop babies’ portion into a blender and whizz it up to their preferred texture.
Think about seating!
Have your little one positioned at the table where an adult can easily help and support them through the mealtime.
Seating is also so important; they will also sit still for longer if their feet can rest on a solid surface. If your child is still in a highchair, ensure it has a solid platform for them to rest their feet.
Serving their food on plates, bowls, and cups that are developmentally appropriate is also so important – Nuby’s rice husk tableware is ideal for babies through to toddlers and pre-schoolers. The plates, bowls, cutlery, and cups also microwave and dishwasher safe, which is always a parent win!
About the author: Shikha Gill from My Little Food Critic is a family food expert, as well as a lawyer and former teacher. You can find out more at My little Food Critic and follow her on Instagram @my.little.food.critic. Download her app now on apple store and googleplay.
*All the opinions and advice shared in this blog are those of Shikha. They are based on her own experiences and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organisation, employer, or company.