Sunday, February 09, 2014

Deconstructing Meals

I am the mother of two beautiful, wonderful, crazy children.  My daughter is 4 1/2 and my son is 2 1/2. What does that mean for me (and most parents) during meal times?  Picky eaters.  They're not as overly picky as I've seen some kids, but they're still pretty particular.  They're children; this is not unexpected.  What it can be is infuriating.  I refuse (REFUSE) to make more than one meal.  I know some parents do, one meal for them, another for the children.  No.  Not me.  To me, that's a waste of what little time I have after I get home from work.  It's also important to me that we sit together for meals.  That can't happen if I'm stuck making two dinners.

However, I still want them to eat.  One day (just a few weeks ago), my Hubby suggested deconstructing our meals for them.  What does that mean?  I made Chicken Fajitas.  An easy meal to deconstruct. Instead of putting everything in a tortilla and handing it to them, I put each item in its own serving dish so they could see what was being put on their plates. They ate all of it. The tortilla, the chicken, the vegetables. ALL of it.  They ate each component separately, but that didn't matter.  I only made one meal and I didn't have to fight to get the kids to eat it.  I figure anything that's going in a wrap or pita is easy to separate into its components.  Recently, I served pasta on one side of the plate and the sauce on the other.  Done.  Gone.  This week, I gave them deconstructed stir-fry.  Rice noodles, chicken and veg separated. Ate it all, the end.  

Do they always finish every single scrap of food on their plate?  No and I don't expect them too. They get full and we can [usually] tell the difference between genuine fullness and fussiness. After all, adults sometimes put more food onto their plates than they can finish.  I'm still using chili powder or teriyaki sauce or whatever; I do not spare the spice. They are just able to see the pieces of the whole before they consume it.

Image from here.
Recently Amanda at Food Riot wrote about only making one meal for her family. I love the title of her post, Mean Parent Confessions: My Kids Eat What I Serve Or They Don’t Eat.  I agree with all of it, every word.  In addition to not wanting to make two meals, I don't want my kids to be fussy/picky when we go out, as children and when they get older.  I feel like the Deconstructed Meals is a good way to get them to eat like us too.  They see us put all the parts of the meal together and often they copy what we do.  (For those who don't know, kids copy their parents.) Some foods they like to keep it separate (and that may translate into adulthood as my mother-in-law still likes plain pasta with the sauce on the side.)  As long as I'm making only one meal and they're eating it.... and maybe there's a reason there are so many partitioned children's dishes.

Do you agree?  Disagree?  How do you get your little ones to eat?

*Note: I do not mean "deconstructing" the way chefs seem to be doing lately.  It's not like I'm aiming for my kids to be trendy with their meals.

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