If you want to feed your children healthy food, the more tricks you have up your sleeve, the better. It does take commitment and sometimes even fortitude to go against the flow of our food culture to feed healthy food to our kids, so I’m all about anything that makes that process more fun, and easier too!
I currently have a two-month-old, a four-year-old, and an eight-year-old. It’s a crazy ride! We are having all sorts of precious moments. I’m reading Anne of Green Gables to my older two while I rock my infant, and the older girls do artwork nearby. It just gives me a “thrill”, as Anne would say, to have these special moments with the girls. It warms my heart up. But sometimes keeping up on the more active part of caring for children, such as cooking, laundry, and cleaning have been a real challenge to stay on top of with a newborn.
And that’s why I cling to any shortcuts or hacks in life that make things easier. Here are six of the ones that I have found helpful in encouraging our girls to enjoy healthy food and the hacks that make my life simpler as the cook and parent.
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Silicone cupcake liners
Magic. These are magic. I use them all the time for a lot of uses. Sometimes I fill them up with a little homemade trail mix (the one shown above is dark chocolate chips, sunflower seeds and toasted coconut flakes). Sometimes I serve lacto-fermented vegetables in them at the table or in bento boxes (see more on bento boxes below). When we have sushi, I put the girls tamari sauce in them. They take the place of small bowls and keep food separated. Plus, they come in fun colors and, therefore, make the food somehow seem more special and fun too. We have heart shaped cupcake liners and a multi-color cupcake liners.
I don’t usually cook cupcakes in them ironically, but just use them for serving food to the kids.
Cutting Noodles with Scissors
This is a trick I learned from a local restaurant that serves pho soup. When we ordered a bowl of pho when our oldest was a four-year-old, our server came out matter of factly with a pair or cheap scissors, which she then used to cut our child’s long noodles into easy to eat pieces. I. Was. Sold. I can’t say how many times I struggled trying to cut up noodles for children when I used to babysit or for our own child. With scissors, it was a quick 15-second painless execution instead of the agonizing five minutes while your own food cooled to lukewarm.
This tip is especially helpful for noodles in broth or for soups where cutting the noodles is especially hard. Obviously you will need to use clean scissors. I just keep a decent pair in my kitchen and run it through the dishwasher after I use it. The restaurant used cheap regular scissors, but certainly using kitchen scissors makes sense too.
Straws with Soup
This is my only tip with a caveat, but I wanted to share it especially for those parents who are trying to encourage their children to enjoy eating soups. As long-time readers know, I am a real fan of soups and broths. And when you have spent the time to make a beautiful homemade broth that is brimming with good-for-you nutrients, it’s pretty frustrating when your child refuses to finish it or even have any of it at all.
This is where straws come in. It’s the rare kid who doesn’t like straws, and I’ve found that our kids enjoy drinking the broth out of their bowls of soup with straws. I know it’s not very classy, but there is a joy to eating that only children can bring, and sometimes that joy comes in the form of straws!
HOWEVER, it’s VERY important that you serve soup with straws ONLY when the soup is lukewarm, and there is no chance of a child burning their mouth with hot liquid. I always test the soup first myself (and use ice cubes to quickly cool the soup). Always.
Try this out with glass straws, stainless steel straws or bamboo straws.
For our oldest’s Frozen birthday party, we had a craft of making snowflakes out of cheap coffee filters, and we ended up with many left over from the party as we had bought the 100 filter package. One of us (my husband or I) one day had the brilliant idea to serve the kids one of their snacks in them. We found them a handy, plastic-free, compostable snack carrier for dry snacks such as plantain chips, and even apple slices if the filters were doubled up.
Eventually, we went through all of them, and I found that our pour over coffee filters worked too. In fact, they worked even better as they were perfectly formed for holding plantain chips or nuts! The coffee filters that go with coffee machines are too floppy for children to hold easily when on the go, but the pour over filters (like shown above) are perfect for holding in hand. We also like these little wax bags for plastic-free lunch packing.
My kids love bento boxes, as they make eating so much fun. I think it’s the same reason that “Lunchables” appeal to kids. What I love about bento boxes is that it really helps me serve my kids a variety of new foods, and encourages them to try new things without getting overwhelmed by a big serving of it. The example above features homemade chicken lunchmeat, gluten free bread, buttered, and cut into stars, roasted beats, and kiwi slices.
Even when at home, I often serve my kids lunches in these (and they request them) because they are appealing and fun for the kids. You can see five gluten free bento box ideas here. And also notice how I use the silicone cupcake liners to separate out some of the foods. Nifty things to have around, as I promised.
I like this stainless steel bento box .
Aren’t these adorable? I bought these originally to go with the bento boxes as they help hold little lettuce rolls together and are helpful for eating cute little pieces of fruit. But let me tell you, they make my four-year-old get serious about whatever she is eating. Because eating chicken is so much more fun when your foodpick has a kitty cat on it. These popular foodpicks comes in all sorts of cute sets so check them out on Amazon or a local kitchen store. And obviously make sure you don’t use them with children who are too small to handle something little like a foodpick or serve to children too young to safely use them because of choking concerns.
What are some of your kitchen hacks of serving healthy food to kids? I’d love to hear!
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I have silicon cups for cupcakes but hello! now I will be using them more! And getting those coffee filters and food picks. Fun stuff, thanks for sharing!
We put food in those mini muffin/tartlet tins…not sure why it’s so fun to eat out of them but it usually does the trick. I also make salads into faces and they love to eat the faces. Excited to have more tricks!
Thanks for sharing the mini muffin tin idea! I had forgotten about that one. 🙂
I really like these ideas, especially the silicone cupcake liners. One of my absolute favourite trick to feed my children is to keep some (cheap) plates in the freezer. At meal time, I pull these plates out of the freezer to serve my children – hot food cools down really quickly on a “frozen plate” and hungry kids can start eating right away. For my littlest, I only use the freezer plate to co their food down than I transfer small portion to plastic plates to limit accidents.
I send my kids to school every day with the lunch bots metal lunch kits. Some are sectioned and others are big for whole sandwiches. We use the circle stainless steel with the tight lids for liquids and anything that could leak. I have been using them since my nine yr old was in kinder and all three girls even the 2.5yr old loves to eat snacks in them. And i use the coffee filters in the lunch boxes to help soaks up any moisture in their food and compost them too.
That’s wonderful! Thank you for sharing. 🙂 I never thought to use the coffee filters that way before. Brilliant!
Love the coffee filter idea! We use empty egg cartons for snacks. Again, there is something appealing about eating food out of little compartments. And we sneak in some math while we nibble. Also, ikea sells very small stainless steel bowls called Blanda that we use for snacks or dips. I have one kid who wants his bowls to be full all the time…so as long as the bowl is really small he gets a full bowl and I don’t have a lot of food wasted or spilled.
Thanks for the bowl recommendation! Love it. 🙂