Raising Richmond: This is not a restaurant

If your declarations of “this is not a restaurant” still don’t end in your child cleaning her plate or trying new food, here are some meal combos for you and your picky eaters to spare you from making different meals for everyone in the family.

If you’re like me, you like to make meals that can cover a few dinners–chili, roast pork, and stews loaded with vegetables. And if you are further like me, your child is a picky eater and would not eat any of those meals. Unless I want to make a double batch of pancakes, there’s not much that I can make a big pot of and expect her to eat.

My daughter will eat maybe 10 main meals–and that’s counting pancakes and waffles as different food. She won’t eat anything that is combined with other ingredients unless it’s a baked good or processed food. She won’t eat noodles. She occasionally tries rice. She doesn’t eat macaroni and cheese. Who doesn’t eat macaroni and cheese?

It bums me out when what’s on her plate has no relationship to what everyone else is eating. I don’t want to make a separate meal for her, but I don’t want her to not eat anything or spend our dinnertime forcing her to eat. So when I plan meals, I try to make dinners for us and her that have similar ingredients that she usually eats.

I know, we should still keep having her try different food, and we do. But she can’t live off that small bite we finally can convince her to chew,1 even if it takes her 20 minutes to chew it. I recently made her try a grape tomato, and her immediate reaction to tasting it was so horrifying that for a moment I thought it was poisoned or rotten.

I don’t know what long-term benefits of making her try one bite of something will have, but I still hold out hope that one day, before I die, she will eat whatever I make for her. I have read that it takes 20 bites of something to get a kid to like it. Until then, here are some of my favorite recipes and the similar-ingredient meal that you can make for your selective eater.

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You eat: White chicken chili

Picky child eats: Chicken

I love this recipe so much. The leftovers have more heat than on the night it’s prepared, but it’s not so spicy that someone who doesn’t like hot food can’t enjoy it. This recipe is good for doubling. It’s very filling and goes well with bread, tortillas, or just a simple salad (on the side, not to soak up bits from the bowl).

Buy more chicken than needed and make whatever version of chicken your child could eat. I cut a chicken breast into strips and cook it on the skillet with only salt and pepper, or use Lawry’s seasoning, which is my favorite item to cook with thanks to this chicken strip recipe.

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You eat: Pizza

Picky child eats: Pizza!

My daughter sometimes won’t eat pizza when she can see the sauce because she doesn’t like “potatoes” (she gets potatoes and tomatoes confused, but equally refuses both when not in fry/ketchup form). When we make our own pizza, I can go light on the sauce for her pieces. Plus kids like to help make pizza.

If you haven’t tried making your own before, this recipe is a good start. I’ve messed it up plenty of times and it still comes out great. Though, transferring the pizza from the pizza peel onto the pizza stone is perhaps the most stressful scene in my marriage. It seems to always involve one of us crying over seemingly ruined pizza and the other heroically stepping in to recreate the pizza on the hot stone. Also maybe it makes our marriage stronger.

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You eat: Turkey meatballs

Picky child eats: Turkey burgers

This turkey meatball recipe is good as suggested over greens, but I also like it with pasta and any other recipe that requires meatballs (which can be any recipe if you really like meatballs). With reserved ground turkey I’ll make a couple of small patties for turkey burgers. All I do is put a little worcestershire sauce in with the meat and cook the burgers in a skillet. Both recipes are excellent for freezing. Just place the meatballs/patties on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag.

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You eat: Southwest potatoes

Picky child eats: Eggs

This is my favorite summer recipe, but it has ingredients that can be found year-round (frozen corn works here). We like to eat this with scrambled eggs on top. And who else likes scrambled eggs? My daughter! If she didn’t like eggs, I don’t know what she’d eat most of the time. Mints from my purse?

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You eat: Pinto bean stew with kale

Picky child eats: A bowl of cereal

Don’t give up your own joy of eating a delicious and healthy meal (vegan, too) because your kid can’t handle eating greens! She has more time than you do to make up for not eating well.

This recipe calls for a slow cooker, but I’ve only made it on a stove top. I cook/add the ingredients in the same order as the recipe, then I keep it on the stove, add the beans, simmer for about twenty minutes, and then add the kale and continue to cook. I’m not a trained cook, but it’s a stew, so you can’t really mess it up as long as you don’t forget to add the spices.

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You eat: Chana swag

Picky child eats: I don’t know. Do you have any hot dogs?

The only time I’ve had success with getting our kid to eat Indian food was by convincing her that paneer was tofu. WHO LIKES TO EAT TOFU?2 The plain Indian food that I make at home is still a far cry from what I can get made by professionals who own spices that are less the three years old, but this will do. And it’s from my new favorite cooking blog Budget Bytes.

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I’ve read all the tips for getting kids to eat vegetables or try new things (put veggies in a smoothie, hide them in quesadillas, have your child cook with you so that she’s more interested in eating the meal, or puree beets and then hook her up to an IV while she sleeps). I’m sure something will work eventually, but I’ve chosen not to get too upset over it. Odds are when our kids are 25 one of their friends will make them kale and they’ll act like they’ve never heard of it before, or say they’ve never liked it because their parents didn’t make it right.

I’m not sure why we even bother trying. I’m just happy my kid eats pancakes and eggs.

  1. Through bribing! We’re good at being parents. 
  2. Other than the chicken-fried tofu sandwich from the Roosevelt, I can only stand to eat tofu when I prepare it myself. When it became clear that she loved tofu, I made it more often, but I have a really hard time making it well and it’s time consuming. And twice my dog has eaten blocks of pressed tofu. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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