Feeding kids shouldn’t be one of the major conundrums of parenthood — but it is. Sure, in an ideal world our two year olds are dining on delicacies like steamed salmon and asparagus or yellow curry, but the reality is in a society that assumes kids have the palates of a cartoon characters trapped in a fast food joint, it can be really tough to expand your kids’ food repertoire. When school cafeterias are pretending pizza sauce counts as a serving of vegetables and restaurant kid menus offer the same three things no matter where you go (chicken nuggets, burgers, and boxed macaroni and cheese) it’s not a stretch to say we’re fighting an uphill battle.
Expanding your kids’ food preferences is a lot like hydroplaning in your car: make too much of a correction and you’ll go careening off the road, but if you steer into the slide you have better chance of gaining some traction. Instead of getting all crazy, start by introducing these awesome healthy and kid-friendly food seasonings to let them experience new flavors and rock their kinder-world with the mindblowing life lesson that there is another flavor besides ketchup.
1. Citrus (lemon, lime, orange)
This first one seems like a no-brainer considering it’s not exactly groundbreaking information that kids like fruit. Yet with all of our parenting brilliance we often forget that these flavors can perk up a lot of the old standbys at the dinner table. Baking chicken breasts with a citrus juice marinade will reignite interest in the mild mannered white meat. A squeeze of lemon or orange juice can turn your reticent salad eater into a leafy green munching machine.
Or if you’re blessed with one of those adventurous eaters (not the way you pretend to be when the pediatrician asks if your three year old eats a well-balanced diet but, like, your kid actually likes to try new foods and isn’t demanding to only eat white foods or things that start with the letter “m” at the present time) go for it and squeeze fresh lime on grilled steak or on top of fresh fish tacos.
You know the stuff, it’s all the rage for lattes these days. The beautiful golden hue sings with the voices of a thousand harmonic angels offering anti-inflammatory benefits and a blissful flavor to match. But since there aren’t a lot of kids clamoring for turmeric lattes a little creativity will go a long way with introducing your little ones to this savory sensation. A light dusting of turmeric over carrots roasted with ghee and sea salt makes a kid-friend side dish.
You can be a super-stealth parent and add a pinch to scrambled eggs or a smoothie (only a yellow smoothie if you’re trying to hide it, though). What’s inarguably delicious is baked chicken seasoned with turmeric. You can serve this as a main dish or get really wild and add it to a salad with fresh and unique ingredients like arugula and honeydew.
3. Liquid aminos
A lot of kids love the salty seduction of soy sauce, but what it offers in flavor it lacks in nutritional value. Swap out this sodium-filled stuff for liquid aminos and add a dose of protein along with your new favorite seasoning. It goes great on broccoli, makes a tasty addition to most marinades, and if you really want to throw caution to the wind you can offer it as a dipping sauce for pretty much anything on your kid’s plate. They will love it and totally think they’re eating something super naughty and you’ll go to bed that night and just laugh and laugh at your (not really) evil ingenuity.
This is an oldie but a goodie. It makes a great replacement for all of those well-loved breakfast goodies that you would be tempted to top with sugar. From French toast to pancakes, granola to morning muffins, cinnamon adds a kick of spicy excitement. A mysterious mix of sweet and savory, cinnamon is super kid-friendly. You can make mind blowing desserts with it too like gooey cinnamon rolls and spiced cakes. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it. Cinnamon is a strong spice, so less is more, but when you use right it you will hit a home run with delicious and decadent (yet lightly sugared) sweets.
5. Nutritional yeast
This one of for the truly diabolical parent who is all for the fools old bait-and-switch tactic. Are you ready for it? These deceptive little flakes are packed with health benefits and explosive flavor. Sprinkle that stuff all over popcorn, roasted veggies, and on top of soup. It’s remarkably similar to Parmesan cheese so if your kids are squeamish about something with name like “nutritional yeast” just call it cheese flakes and they won’t be any the wiser. It also mixes into mashed potatoes and even mimics a creamy cheese sauce