Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 2, 2009 11:54 AM

How did your Mom make food ... "Kid Friendly?"


I am having some friends stay with me next week and they have 3 kids ... all VERY very picky eaters. One won't even look at a vegetable, one no meat, and one no chicken ... you get the picture.

Well, I always when I cook for kids try to get the kids in the kitchen so they can see what I am making for them. I usually don't cook special just for them but I may alter my main ingredient or dish for them a bit to accomodate the younger tastes.

I remember a friend that stayed with us during the summer hated hamburgers. My mom used to make a long skinny burger, like a hot dog, she loved it. Me. I was off chicken for a while, not sure why ... Mom used to mix it in meatloaf, meatballs, burgers, etc. I had a neighbor that I played with that hated fish. Mom used to make this funny BBQ Honey sauce and my friend ate it with her fish. I went through a non corn stage for a summer. Well it is absolutely my favorite vegetable but as a kid, I guess I went through a summer of no corn. Who knows why. Well, Mom made fritters, pancakes, fried patties, soups, creamed anything to use it up. We had a garden so had tons of corn.

Ok fun shaped foods, pancakes, donuts, bagles, sausage, fruits. Hot dogs cut with arms and legs and then cooked. Mom did grits on the plate that looked like mickey. Etc.

My mom also purred herbs in a sauce for some of my friends so they would eat them. No grant it ... At a certain age, you just either ate it or you went hungry. I still believe in that unless there is a medical reason not to eat the food. Everything should be tried at least once. I hate those who say ... I don't like that ... but never tried it.

My mom was lucky, I was easy, but some of our friends and their kids were not.

SO ... What Foods did your mom make or change to make them kid friendly??

  1. ummm....thinking...thinking....nothing. I can't remember ever not eating my food exactly the way my parents ate theirs. Maybe that's why I'll eat anything now.

    I have a cousin who says his child will only eat "Uncrustables" which I'm told are frozen pre-made peanut butter sandwiches. I just don't understand why people would let their children rule the house that way.

    9 Replies
    1. re: danna

      I went through a couple of short not this or that but for the most part anything went. I think the NON chicken summer was after I saw a barn burn down a neighbor and there were chickens in it. My mom still used chicken just disguised it for me for a couple of months.

      My corn faze, not sure why, Only lasted the summer, but it was mostly friends that were picky. Me. I made my son eat anything we ate. Somethings I was understanding on but most no. My son didn't rule my house and me not ours. Mom only cut me a little slack those 2 times. But with guests, it is a different story I think. I would do the same to a degree.

      1. re: kchurchill5

        Non Chicken Summer. I think you have a novel there.

        Yeah, guests are rough. I periodicaly have some adult guests that eat like children, so I'm feeling your pain, but it sounds like you did a great job with them.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          I had a non-cow summer too, after seeing a carcass sitting out in the hot sun on a nature field trip... oh, and there was the time my aunt let me name the calf, and then one year, there was no more Gus-Gus! Poor Gus-Gus! :-(

          At any rate, my mom definitely did the fun-shaped pancakes, and they always had chocolate chips for eyes. Either that, or silver dollar pancakes- great for dunking, if the kids are younger.

          One thing she did for me is she used to draw faces on eggs for when I helped with baking. She always had me crack the egg on the nose- worked like a charm!

          Make your own pizzas are always great too- they can get involved in the cooking and put whatever they want on their pizza. My dad used to make tortilla pizzas, which is even easier!

          1. re: Katie Nell

            I remember the pizza. My mom always laughed because I added broccoli and corn kernals to mine (the garden thing and all), lol.

            The eggs is a good trick

        2. re: danna

          My parents and grandparents were the same as yours--we ate what everyone else ate, whether we wanted to or not.

          1. re: danna

            Wow--we ate what the rest of the family ate from the time we were babies--fully salted, spiced, onions, garlic, you name it, we ate it. No negotiations, no discussions, but I don't remember there ever being an issue. Hungarian grandma was a great cook who exposed us to all kinds of stuff. We loved spinach, for example. I was so shocked to hear that a lot of kids here won't eat greens...

            1. re: foodslut

              Surprising, I can't believe how picky kids and some adults can be. Other than my 2 months of no chicken and my month of of onions. I'd eat most anything. Greens, I loved, garden and all. Picked everything right there and ate it. And to this day, NO liver but not much else, :)

              1. re: foodslut

                only thing I can think of is when my mom got me to eat spinach when I was about 5 by asking me if i didn't want to grow up to be strong like Popeye... I knew the song by heart so of course I had to eat my spinach but not out of a can like him!

              2. re: danna

                There were five kids in the family. My father was the food boss. My mother made what my father wanted. We ate what was put on the table. If we did not like it, which was rarely, we had the option of oatmeal AFTER the rest of the family ate. We still had to sit at the table.
                As such, we all have very healthy appetites and grew up trying anything. Passed that tradition down to my own kids and they have very healthy appetities as well.

              3. I'm afraid I'm not going to be much help because my mom wasn't interested in making things kid friendly. Even when we were very young. It was, as you said, eat it or go hungry. The ONLY thing I can remember my mom going out of her way to make more appealing to a young child was the first time she fed me bagels with lox and cream cheese. I remember being very suspicious about eating anything called "lox". I didn't even know what bagels were. (I was no more than three at the time.) I was all prepared to refuse to eat it and my mom handed me a bagel with a schmear and little pieces of lox that she had pulled apart and spread around the bagel. I was sold and ate it right up. I can still remember how good that bagel was. I actually think that was a major turning point in my life because from that point on I was always an adventurous eater. Who knows - if things had gone badly with that bagel I might have turned out to be an entirely different person, food-wise.

                3 Replies
                1. re: flourgirl

                  My daughter (now 4) eats everything, and she always did (although she is slightly more in tune with the "green stuff" like parsley in food).

                  At her last day of pre-school last year, there was a class breakfast, and when one of the mothers was giving my daughter a bagel with cream cheese, my daughter turned to the other mother "is there any lox?". Everyone thought that was a riot, but she was serious!

                  1. re: valerie

                    My son pops out with those. I'm so used to it I don't find it weird, but other people (especially grown-up picky eaters) sure do! Of course, to be perfectly fair, my little guy thinks smoked salmon should come on a sliced baguette topped with chopped red onion, capers and a sprinkle of lemon, since that's how my DH makes it.

                    1. re: valerie

                      My son ate everything until age 10, then changed ... School and friends, then greens, cheese and other stuff became wierd. He know is much better but a few years it was wierd. He was ok some times and other not. But overall a good eater and still is.

                  2. Good luck. I suspect you will have a trying time with these houseguests and their kids. Other moms I know employ a lot of ketchup. Maybe you could find a bottle of High Fructose Corn Syrup for cheap and douse everything with that.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: yamalam

                      The lol, says he won't eat chicken but he does. I've made it before for him. He just never knew. The other likes meat just doesn't like to eat it. I told him it was tofu, lol. The kids, I hide stuff. Pretty mean huh.

                      Or I make quesadillas with lots of stuff and everyone can make their own. I'm sure the kids may do cheese if that, lol.

                      Oh well. How about ketchup quesadillas, the kids may eat that. hehe.

                    2. Sorry - my mother was in the 'you eat what we eat' school and we had to try everything. So now I eat everything.

                      This brings up an interesting question - how many of our fellow foodies were indulged in their childish food issues and how many were not? Is there a relationship to their foodiness today? Did the children whose parents forced them to try everything and eat adult food grow up to have more adventurous tastes?

                      It's especially interesting to me since I have a 4 year old who gets whatever I serve - he doesn't always like it but he has to try it. We believe that will pay off for him (and us!) in the long run.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: lupaglupa

                        I am married to a man who is living proof that forcing a child to eat things will not result in more adventurous tastes in adulthood. My husband was forced into eating lots of things that his parents deemed healthy -- tuna fish (his father actually tried to sneak tuna fish into peanut butter sandwiches) and vegetables, etc. Now, at age 39, my husband would keel over and die before he would eat a salad or 99% of all fruits and vegetables.

                        I am lucky that my kids are good eaters but it is not always so cut and dry as "you eat what we eat". My niece (now 11) and my nephew (now 6) grew up with the same parents as each other in the same household as each other. My sister gives the same food to both kids (and same as she and her husband) and always did. My niece is somewhat adventurous and always has been. My nephew, on the other hand, is a HORRIBLE eater. I can't even go into all of his quirks when it comes to food, but it is a miracle if he takes 2 bites of anything at any given meal. My sister has tried every tactic in the book, just to get some calories into this kid. And telling him that he will have to go to bed hungry is no threat to him, he doesn't care. He is so skinny that he looks like he's walking around on 2 toothpicks for legs. There were times that she just threw a bag of M&M's at him because out of desperation, she felt that he needed to eat "something".

                        It's very easy to say what everyone else should do (and I used to criticize my sister too for letting him eat candy), but until a parent is living with it (or around it), some people have no idea how difficult some kids can be when it comes to food.

                        1. re: valerie

                          We were never forced to eat things and my son is not either. We were just told "this is dinner, you must at least try one bite before you say it is awful and reject it." If we did not like it we did not eat it - but then we had to eat more of other items or be hungry. Many times we found after we tried something that it wasn't so bad. My brother and I are now both very adventurous eaters who had expanded far beyond what we were served as children.

                          My son is almost 4. He eats very well - for that age - but still rejects many new items at first sight. We ask him to try it and then allow him to leave the rest. He gets no second option (i.e. we don't get up and get him a PBJ if he rejects the main item for dinner). If he's hungry then before bed he gets a healthy snack of his choice.

                          I'm not judging how others choose to feed their children, just saying that this is what worked for me and is working (so far) with my son. And I wonder if one could see a relationship in the Chowhound community between parents getting children to try everything rather than letting them eat the same food and their later adult interest in food. It seems many of the people responding to this thread were not given the choice at dinner in their families to eat only things they liked.

                          1. re: lupaglupa

                            I still, to this day, hate cornstarch, bun xao, liver and onions, liverwurst. Even when I make pate I can't eat the liver until it's blended with everything else (tried it sauteed a few days ago and then gave it to either the very happy cat or dog). Still trying.

                            I may not have been given a choice growing up, and it likely influenced my desire to try everything at least once. When we have children, they'll be given what we eat, pureed when tinier, as was true for my parents. My husband and I discussed this recently, and there will be some issues that will arise after the kids start eating at other people's houses (or seeing what others eat in the lunchroom), but coddling to the point of making things difficult? No. Even when I'm following a "detox" diet, my husband is free to salt his food and use whatever condiments he chooses. The same is true when I have vegans at the table. There's plenty of things to eat and be happily satiated with. Food should never be torture, and that is something I hope to pass on.

                            1. re: lupaglupa

                              I was required to try everything once if it was on my plate. If I didn't like it, I had the option to make myself a PB and J. When I was old enough, I was also encouraged to be part of the shopping and planning of meals. I never found my way into liking most foods with creamy textures as a kid, but did learn to appreciate what it took to produce dinner and to give food "the benefit of the doubt" as my mom would put it.

                              1. re: lupaglupa

                                Lupaglupa, I didn't mean to imply that you were judging, but many people always seem to have something to say on this topic of getting kids to eat. I am constantly cooking different foods because I refuse to have my kids eat chicken nuggets or the like all the time. But again, I am lucky in that my kids will try anything (ages 2 and 4). Most are hits, some are misses, but I am constantly giving them new and different things. I never have to worry about a restaurant having a "kids menu" becuase I can always find something to order for them.

                                But I do believe that luck plays a part. My sister would go to ends of the earth to make something that my nephew will eat, and she's always trying new things, but in general, it is painful to sit at a table with him. We are a "food family" and nobody can understand how this kid has NO interest in food!

                                1. re: valerie

                                  Yes, Valerie, you are right. While it is important for parents to make an effort to expose their children to healthy food, a child's willingness to try is also a function of personality -- just like some children sleep longer hours, are quieter or more rambunctious, etc. And, a child's willingness to try new things is also tied to development. Kids go through a phase -- what we often call "the terrible 2s" -- when they become contrary; it's part of their becoming individuals. My son was a very adventurous eater up until he was about 30 months, and then became much more limited in what he would eat -- although we tried to be sure what he ate was healthy, there wasn't much variety. One thing parents should realize is that children eventually emerge from this developmental stage and become more willing to try new things. In his case, it was when he was about 5. I think that too many parents think that their kids' pickiness is a permanent trait and give up after a few years in trying to expand what they eat.

                                  1. re: valerie

                                    I totally understand what valerie is saying b/c my husband had to eat what he was served, whether he liked it or by no means made him more adventurous as an eater. He likes what he likes, and there are many foods he was forced to eat as a child that he will not go near today. I know other people like this as well. I think encouraging your kids to try things is always good, but i think genetics, and yes, to some extent food experimentation, play a role in determining what foods we like to eat.

                                  2. re: lupaglupa

                                    "We were just told 'this is dinner, you must at least try one bite before you say it is awful and reject it'."

                                    Eeek. In our house, no one is allowed to say something is awful, unless the cook makes a comment first. That's just bad manners. :-)

                                    I do encourage my 5-year-old daughter to try new things, but I'm fine with a "no, thank you" if she doesn't want to. For the most part, she will eat anything - she's a fan of artichokes, radishes, all sorts of vegetables (it helps that we have a big garden and she likes to pick peas and beans and herbs etc for dinner) and will almost always try new things. She even surprised us last summer by trying escargot - even after she knew it was snails! :-)

                                2. re: lupaglupa

                                  "This brings up an interesting question - how many of our fellow foodies were indulged in their childish food issues and how many were not? Is there a relationship to their foodiness today?"

                                  I could never bear even the smell of cooked green beans or cooked bell peppers, all my life. I remember sitting at the table as a fairly small child (4 - 5 years?) in front of me a plate w/ cold canned green beans. My mother was making it clear that I was going NOWHERE til the beans were gone. And she wasn't falling for some amatuer move, like leaving the room and giving me the chance to slip them into the garbage. I was not the eldest, lol.

                                  When the inevitable gag reflex kicked in, I was informed that VOMITED green beans would also be required to be eaten. That made my spine straighten and my efforts certainly improved in sincerity, because I got them down, through silent tears.
                                  I know this will sound just horrible to all these gently reared folks I see on here, but I am laughing as I remember. Poor Mom. She was not very happy much of the time. That's what I remember more than my discomfort. How unhappy she was.

                                  ANYWAY, I still hate cooked green beans and smelling them up close can make me gag.
                                  I didn't force my kids to eat hated foods and they were were never very picky. At our house, if you don't like what's being served, make your own dinner according to your skill set. Anything from milk and cereal to whatever's available. But not taking the ingredients for another planned family dinner, of course.
                                  I love strange foods and try everything; my kids are the same way. No food stress at all, unless it's because we tend to grow fat!

                                  1. re: weewah

                                    "At our house, if you don't like what's being served, make your own dinner according to your skill set. Anything from milk and cereal to whatever's available."

                                    I LOVE that!!! Doesn't get much less stressful than that. :)

                                    1. re: weewah

                                      Same thing happened to me as a kid with spinach (I actually did gag it back up and was forced to eat it)... but I don't laugh as I remember!

                                      I read a CH post recently where someone approvingly said that when they were a kid, if they didn't eat something, they were served the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they finally ate it, and now they eat everything. I just couldn't do that to my kid. I mean, I have foods that I don't like as an adult, and I would be pretty upset if I were forced to eat a big plate of bananas and brussels sprouts drenched in mayo. It doesn't seem fair to feed my kid the equivalent, even if I feel he's being picky. I'm confident that over time he will eat a wider range of foods, and I tell him that it's normal for people to start liking different types of foods as they get older. I'm with you on the "no food stress" philosophy.

                                      1. re: Pia

                                        I admit that it can get frustrating at times dealing with a child who seems to be refusing to eat something for no good reason other than they can. For instance, for the longest time, my son, who's 9, has refused to eat cheese of any kind. Which would actually be OK with me - except that he's FINE with it when it's on pizza. He's also always loved fresh mozzarella and tomato salad. So I would get frustrated because it seemed more like a control issue than an actual taste/texture etc. issue. (And I'm not talking about stinky/oozy cheeses either. Love them but I wouldn't necessarily expect a kid to.)

                                        But for the most part I've let it go and accomodated him, because otherwise he's an excellent eater. And I have noticed over the last year or so that he is really loosening up on his food "no's". (His other ones were mayo and peanut butter.) For the most part, he's actually a very adventurous eater for his age and a joy to go out to dinner with.

                                        I'm glad I took the low-stress approach to dealing with food issues with my son.

                                    2. re: lupaglupa

                                      My parents themselves are not very adventurous eaters. As someone without children, I find it hard to understand why children's tastes should not be "indulged", when in fact every meal "indulges" the tastes of the parents. There were a lot of foods I'd never tried as a child because my parents didn't like them (or were afraid to try them). Things that had never been consumed at family dinners (at home or in restaurants) by the time I moved out at eighteen include Indian food, Chinese food, Mexican food, most of the spices and seasonings that go with those three cuisines, zucchini, bell peppers, brown rice, winter squashes, broad beans, tofu, bananas (!), apples (!), lentils, spinach... the list could go on. When my brother was about eight he went to someone's house and was served a green salad, and he asked, "What's that green stuff?" (Lettuce.) Every meal was a chance for my parents to eat what they loved (namely, big steaks, chicken, potatoes and frozen vegetables!), and my brother and I never really had a chance to learn what WE loved because our diets were so limited.

                                      1. re: Jetgirly

                                        This was true in my home as well. My mom's a good cook - and at times, an excellent cook. But she intensely dislikes Indian and Mexican food and their respective seasonings, so I never tasted any of these foods until I was much older and tried them at other people's homes. I LOVE Indian and Mexican food - as well as the food of many other cultures that I wasn't exposed to as a child..

                                        My mother always claimed she dislikes those foods because she wasn't raised with them - but than I always point out that I wasn't either and I enjoy them immensely. (I know my mother wonders at times where exactly it is that I came from....)

                                        But I will also say that even though I had a somewhat limited diet at home, my parents took my brother and I out to eat a lot at good restaurants and they always encouraged us to be adventurous. So, for example, even though my mother thinks escargot are disgusting, I tried them when I was about 9 or 10 and discovered I loved them. So I guess I still have my parents to thank for being the adventurous eater I am today, even though they weren't so much. (In fairness, I'd say it's more my mom with the serious food limitations - my dad was much more adventurous and could indulge himself as well when we went out to eat.)

                                        1. re: Jetgirly

                                          What children get fed is often a budgetary issue, not one of refusing to "indulge" one's children.

                                          My family was off and on poor when I was young. We ate what was cheap, and we didn't get to refuse to eat something just because we didn't like how it looked to us. If we at at least two bites of it and determined we couldn't stand it, my parents wouldn't force it on us, but we had to at least TRY everything, and if we could stomach it, it was better to eat it. Of course, when you're really hungry and there's no other real options in the house, you eat it. Fortunately where I grew up, the cheap stuff was chicken, not tripe.

                                          When we were doing well financially, my parents were able to buy treats more often, or better cuts of meat, or take us out more often.

                                      2. My mom used to put out little dishes of sauce to dip food in. We dipped broccoli and chicken into italian dressing. Somehow it was more exciting to dip each piece of food into something and then eat it.

                                        I also HATED fish as a kid. My mother would put my piece of fish in a separate pan and let me put whatever I wanted on it. It seemed more palatable that way. I put colored sprinkles on my flounder and mint and sugar on my salmon. Now I just won't eat fish unless it's raw in sushi.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                          that is what my mom did for a friend of mine who ate with us often. Sometimes we had fried usually because it was pearch or bass and she would make this cool spicy spicy ketchup BBQ stuff. She got to dip it that way. I used to give my son honey or ranch to dip fruits, veggie etc. I forgot about that.

                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                            VERY good idea for the original poster. Most kids love to dip.

                                            1. re: Mawrter

                                              Vanilla yogurt and honey for fruit, ranch and others for veggies warm or cold, honey for chicken or BBQ, Even Thai or chimmichurri for pork or steak, lots of things. DIP anything.

                                              Hey us adults love to dip too!!