For picky-eating kids, there's one rule when it comes to food plating: You gotta keep 'em separated.
Photo: Sally Kuzemchak/Real Mum Nutrition
The peas can't be touching the pasta, and the rice must be a pinky-distance away from anything with sauce. And don't even think about slipping something new into the proximity of the tried-and-approved foods. In the quest to introduce diversity in their kids' diets (and maybe even veer from the beige food group), parents become frustrated, and mealtime often escalates into a series of pleas, bribes and threats.
Sally Kuzemchak, who writes the Real Mum Nutrition blog, gives this tip for bringing back the peace: Use a Taste Plate.
"It's a small dish that sits to the side of your child's main dinner plate," she explains. "It's a non-threatening place where you can put portions of foods you'd like them to try."
For Kuzemchak, a registered dietitian, the "just try one bite" approach to picky eating backfired. It put her toddler son on the defensive, challenged his independence, and wrecked the mood at the table. The Taste Plate, on the other hand, serves as a pressure-free invitation. Kuzemchak makes the portions very, very small — the size of a small bite. Tasting is encouraged, but not mandatory. And her kids are allowed to politely spit the food into a napkin if they try it and don't like it.
Some other tips for using a Taste Plate:
- Pick out a small, fun plate. White Corelle isn't as exciting.
- Call it whatever you'd like! One parent calls it the Trying Bowl. I think I'll call it the Bravery Plate. "If you're feeling brave, try these foods you may feel a little nervous about."
- Keep it low-pressure. Don't keep pushing it, saying, "Hey, kid, remember you have a Taste Plate right there!" Avoid making a big production if they do or don't try anything on the plate. Some kids don't like to be watched while they're eating.