Deconstructed meals. How to serve complex meals in simple ways! Don’t be a short-order cook when your kids aren’t keen on eating the things you like. Here’s how to get around it.
If you love things like stews, salads, grain bowls, and casseroles, you’ve probably already experienced the friction of trying to serve these things to your children in the same form you prefer to eat them – whole and mixed together.
What do you do when your child refuses to touch something with multiple layers or ingredients in the same bowl?
If you’ve been tempted to make separate meals for your kids when this happens, you’re not alone.
Our advice? Don’t be a short-order cook, friends, and keep reading.
What to do instead
As we always say, it’s not nutrition unless it’s eaten. We know how important it is for you to serve your kids healthy, nutrient-packed meals and expose them to all sorts of foods.
We also know how frustrating it is to spend all that time preparing a home-cooked meal for your family and then have it criticized – or even rejected – by the ones you’re trying to nourish the most.
Rather than giving into the moment and making something completely different for your child (hello PB&J or microwave quesadilla), we suggest doing something else instead.
Offer them the same thing you’re eating, but in a deconstructed way.
What does that mean?
While you’re enjoying the meal as you intended it, deliciously combined in one bowl, present it to your child in separate pieces.
This doesn’t mean a separate bowl for every ingredient. It just means that rather than piling everything together, allow your child to decide whether they want to pile everything together themselves.
Instead, present them with a plate of parts. Here’s how that might look.
Examples of deconstructed meals
Offering your child deconstructed meals is easy, it just takes some practice!
All you’re doing is offering your kids the parts you know they like – with some they either don’t usually like or haven’t tried yet – separately rather than all mixed together like yours.
If you’re having sides, like fruit or bread, you can still serve this to your child as well.
Adult: Big bowl of mixed greens with chopped veggies, nuts, seeds, roasted tofu cubes, apple slices, and dressing – all mixed together
Child: A plate with baby carrots and bell pepper slices, nuts, seeds, roasted tofu cubes, sliced apples, and some greens. Serve a little dressing on the side to dip if they like.
Adult: Bowl of creamy cooked pasta with lentils, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese sauce.
Child: A plate with plain cooked pasta (or with cheese sauce), lentils, tomatoes, and spinach on the side.
Stew or Chunky Soup
Adult: Bowl of stew made with potato chunks, corn, peas, and beans.
Child: A plate with potatoes, corn, peas, and beans in separate piles.
Veggie Wrap or Burger
Adult: Wrap or burger in a seedy bun or tortilla layered with veggies and slathered with hummus.
Child: Tortilla or half a bun on the side, burger patty slices, raw veggies separated, and hummus to dip.
Grain + Tofu Bowl
Adult: Big bowl of quinoa topped with seitan slices, steamed broccoli, cashews, sesame seeds, and a creamy soy sauce.
Child: A plate with a pile of plain cooked quinoa, seitan slices on the side, a few florets of steamed broccoli (with dip if that helps them eat it!), cashews, and sesame seeds served separately. Creamy soy sauce on the side to dip if they choose.
If your child is totally cool with receiving meals in the same form as you’re eating them, that’s great! Continue to do that. But if they tend to push back and refuse to eat things that are mixed or piled together, consider trying some deconstructed plates and see if it helps encourage eating.
Chime In: How does this go at your house? Does your child eat the same things in the same way as you? What have you found to help?
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