Dinner’s On: How to Cook Once and Feed All Eaters
Feed All Eaters
One night, in the not so distant past, I found myself cooking three meals, three times a day. If you’re doing the math, that’s nine different meals every single day for three very different types of eaters. Dinner was the worst: By 6 pm, I would begin prepping a meal for me and my husband to eat after all the kids went to bed. By 6:30 I’d whip up an easy-ish toddler dish for my three-year-old twins while simultaneously chopping and dicing and foraging for a third meal for my five-year-old son with cerebral palsy. He has chewing and swallowing issues. His food takes the most thought of all of us. Plus, he’s five, so there’s the “picky-factor”. That’s way too much thought put in to what we put in our mouths. Plus, we never ate together, because when would I have time to sit down with all that prepping and baking and microwaving and pureeing?
Through sweat, creativity, consultations with feeding therapists, and a hefty dose of desperation, we’ve finally got this dinner thing down. We eat together. We eat the ONE meal I fix a night. And I sit down; I really do; And here’s how you can, too.
Let Them Help
This seems counterintuitive to easier eating, but they will be more willing to try more foods if they are invested in the process. If they see what goes in to each meal, it is less intimidating. Suddenly, that spaghetti sauce isn’t really red goop, but instead a bunch of tomatoes they helped squish up and mix with their favorite sausage from breakfast. Despite his limited standing and walking skills, my oldest is a champ at the stirring and he mans the timer so we all know when dinner’s ready. He’s also my place setter. Getting him comfortable using utensils was a long process, but putting him in charge of placing them around the table for the family was a step in the right direction.
Keep Ingredients Separate
Picky eaters need to see each component. Because of that, casseroles are not always your friend. No one wants to stumble upon a slimy mushroom in that tuna dish. So, we combine as we go, upping the complexity as we age. For my kids, I keep the noodles separate from the sauce and let them sample each before, hopefully, decided to mix and match. And forget salad; our veggies are a masterpiece in deconstruction. Let them dip carrots and cucumbers and tomatoes in dressing or hummus, while you mix it all up for the grownups. I’ll also steam the veggies for my oldest who has trouble chewing.
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