Menu Makeover

A week’s worth of great meals for picky eaters

By Liz Pearson

Your four-year-old eats Cheerios, plain pasta and grapes. That’s it. Your seven-year-old’s diet includes a few more food groups, but only if they’re not touching each other on the plate. Heaven help you if you introduce a vegetable. To put it mildly: Your kids are discriminating eaters. Don’t despair, here is a week’s worth of healthy lunch, dinner and snack ideas designed to entice even the pickiest of eaters.

MONDAY

LUNCH
• Cookie Cutter Lean Meat Sandwich
• Baby Carrots & Dip
• Chocolate Milk

Sometimes it’s just a matter of increasing the fun factor in meals. Cut sandwiches into different shapes, with a cookie cutter. Most kids drink more milk when it’s chocolate or strawberry flavoured. Store-bought chocolate milk can be too rich and interfere with small appetites. Instead, make flavoured milk at home with syrup or powder. If you want to pack milk in your child’s lunch bag, pour it into a drink container. Put it in the freezer for about an hour in the morning. Pop it into their lunch bag and it will be deliciously cold by lunchtime.

AFTERNOON SNACK
• Fruit Kebabs (grapes, melon, strawberries, banana)
Kids are more likely to eat fruit (and veggies) when they’ve been cut up and prepared for them. Load your kebabs with fruit you know your child will eat, along with the occasional new or less popular fruit. Use flavoured yogurt for dipping.
Snacks are especially important for picky eaters because they help fill the nutritional gaps. Try to serve them at regular times (not too close to mealtime).

DINNER
• Homemade Chicken Nuggets
• Oven Fries
• Peas
• Milk

Some store-bought and many fast-food nuggets are loaded with trans fats. For healthier nuggets, make your own with chicken breasts and a coating mix, such as Shake ’n Bake Extra Crispy. Instead of regular fries, make oven fries. Many kids like to snack on frozen peas. Serve cooked peas with the meal – ultimately you want your kids to enjoy foods served in a variety of ways.

EVENING SNACK
• Cereal & Milk

Cereal with milk makes a great meal or a nutrient-rich snack any time. It contains many of the vitamins and minerals kids don’t often get enough of, including iron, zinc and calcium. If your kids prefer pre-sweetened cereals, try to stick to ones that are whole grain and contain at least 2 g of fibre per serving.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Kids who are pressured, forced or bribed to eat actually eat less food in the end.

TUESDAY

LUNCH
• Sandwich Wrap
• Applesauce with Sprinkles
• Strawberry Milk

Sandwich wraps – whole wheat tortillas filled with lean meat and shredded cheese – are a great alternative to regular sandwiches. Pack a small baggie of sprinkles for your child to enjoy with their applesauce. Everything tastes better with sprinkles!

AFTERNOON SNACK

• Veggies & Dip (carrot sticks, cucumber slices, broccoli trees or red pepper strips)
The best way to get most kids to eat veggies is to serve them raw and with dip. When you do serve cooked veggies, make sure they’re not overcooked and mushy.
Serving veggies to kids when they’re most hungry — right after school or before dinner — is also a good strategy for getting them to eat the green stuff.

DINNER
• Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich
• Chocolate Milk

Most kids love peanut butter sandwiches, but you can’t pack them in their school lunch due to allergies. The solution? Give peanut butter sandwiches a place at the dinner table once or twice a week. Peanut butter is a healthy choice. It’s loaded with nutrition and although higher in fat, the fat it contains is the healthy-for-the-heart kind. Peanut butter sandwiches are also great for life in the fast lane. If your child doesn’t want the banana in the sandwich, they can always enjoy it on the side.

EVENING SNACK
• Mandarin Orange Sections

Even kids who don’t like canned fruit tend to like these sweet treats. Fresh mandarin oranges or clementines are also popular when they’re available (most are seedless and kids can peel them themselves).

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Remember, taste rules! Kids are more likely to eat something if you tell them “it tastes good” rather than “it’s good for you.”

WEDNESDAY

LUNCH
• Just Like “Lunchables”
• Fruit Juice

Kids love to build, play and eat with their hands. Pack containers of a variety of foods, like lean meat, sliced cheese, whole grain crackers, carrot sticks and grapes.
Don’t give your kids too much fruit juice as it can interfere with their appetite for other healthy foods. Most kids should have no more than 1 cup (250 mL) per day. Serve milk with most meals and aim for a milk-only rule for dinnertime.

AFTERNOON SNACK
• Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin

Make a batch of whole-grain muffins on the weekend and freeze them. Don’t forget the chocolate chips — when added to foods like muffins, pancakes and trail mix, they increase kid-appeal big time.


• Macaroni & Cheese
• Carrot Sticks & Broccoli Trees With Dip
• Milk

Whether it’s homemade or even Kraft Dinner, most kids love mac ’n’ cheese. To lighten up Kraft Dinner, instead of adding 3 tbsp (45 mL) of butter or margarine, as called for on the package, add just 1 tsp (5 mL) and a touch more milk. No one will ever know the difference.

EVENING SNACK
• Roasted Chickpeas

Try this snack: Drain and rinse one can of chickpeas. Toss with about 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 45 minutes. So good!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Eliminate the competition. If your cupboards are filled with candy and chips, the healthy stuff is more likely to go untouched.

THURSDAY

LUNCH
• Mini Pita Sandwiches
• Baby Carrots & Cucumber Slices With Dip
• Yogurt Tube
• Milk

Small people like small things. That’s why they like mini sandwiches made with mini-pita pockets. Fill them with what your child prefers – lean meat, cheese, tuna or egg salad. If your child doesn’t drink much milk, serve cheese or yogurt regularly. Yogurt now comes in all sorts of fun forms — squeezable tubes, drinkable shakes and mini yogurts. Try them all.

AFTERNOON SNACK
• Cheese & Crackers
Choose 100% whole-wheat crackers, like Triscuits. Let kids decide if they want the cheese melted on top. Salsa is another healthy addition. Any time you give kids a choice (even a small choice like whether the cheese is melted or not), they are more likely to eat what’s served.

DINNER
• Eggs & Toast
• Corn
• Grape Tomatoes
• Milk

Eggs have a mild, kid-friendly taste, and pack a lot of nutrition in one neat little package. Make them the way your kids like best. Serve corn on the cob whenever it’s in season. It’s another fun way for them to eat with their hands. Grape tomatoes are small, sweet and delicious. Even kids who don’t like regular tomatoes like grape tomatoes.

EVENING SNACK
• Fresh Fruit Served With Chocolate Pudding Dip
If your fussy eater won’t go for yogurt, low-fat chocolate pudding makes a terrific dip for fresh fruit. Bananas and strawberries go especially well with chocolate.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Give your child time to eat in a relaxed environment – some picky eaters are actually just slow ones in disguise.

FRIDAY

LUNCH
• Cream Cheese Bagel Supreme
• Kiwi
• Chocolate Milk

Whole-grain bagels go great with a thin layer of flavoured cream cheese along with some lean meat. For example, pineapple-flavoured cream cheese goes great with ham. Peach cream cheese and turkey are another great combo. Use mini bagels or send half a bagel to suit small appetites. Kiwis are fun. Cut them in half and put them in your child’s lunch bag along with a spoon. Tell them to scoop out the contents (also referred to as slooping).

AFTERNOON SNACK
• Veggies & Dip
Give food fun names. Broccoli “trees” are so much more exciting to eat than just broccoli. (You can usually get away with this until age five!)

DINNER
• Build Your Own Hawaiian Pizza
• Chocolate Milk

The more time your kids have to get acquainted with food – before it hits the dining room table – the more likely they are to eat it. Let them build their own pizza.
Use either pizza dough or a ready-made flatbread. Let kids spread on the tomato sauce and sprinkle the cheese. Have chopped pineapple and lean ham for toppings.

EVENING SNACK
• Homemade Trail Mix
Make homemade trail mix with whole-grain cereal, dried fruit (like raisins) and nuts. For fun add a few mini chocolate chips. Nuts are a healthy replacement for meat and are great for filling nutritional gaps.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Monkey see, monkey do. If you want your kids to eat more veggies and fruit — eat more veggies and fruit yourself.

SATURDAY

LUNCH
• Build Your Own Mini Sub Sandwich
• Apple Slices (dusted with sugar and cinnamon)
• Chocolate Milk

Put out some assorted lean cold cuts, sliced cheese, shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Let your child pick and choose to create a sandwich just right for her.
A few simple additions can make fruits and vegetables more appealing, and help them compete with dessert. Apple slices are delicious dusted with a touch of sugar and cinnamon. Bananas sprinkled with brown sugar, drizzled with lemon juice and put under the broiler until golden also make a yummy treat.

AFTERNOON SNACK
• Grapes
Most kids go for grapes. For a terrific snack, remove grapes from their stems, wash and freeze them overnight. Thaw them for five minutes before serving. Watch them disappear! If you’re feeding anyone under the age of four, make sure you cut grapes in half.

DINNER
• Pasta with Tomato Sauce & Parmesan Cheese
• Veggie Face
• Milk

Pasta is an all-time family favourite. Keep the sauce relatively plain. Kids don’t like to see huge chunks of veggies in their sauce. Use a blender to hide veggies that might turn them off. And don’t forget to put Parmesan cheese on the table – it’s a tasty way for kids to get more calcium. Children love things to be visually appealing. Make a face out of raw veggies.

EVENING SNACK
• Super Chocolate Banana Soy Smoothie
Soy milk can be used to replace either milk or meat. To make this delicious smoothie, combine 1 cup (250 mL) of chocolate soy milk with one very ripe, frozen banana.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Don’t overwhelm your children. They usually like small plates, cups and cutlery. They also like small serving sizes.

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