Whole Story

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Fast Food for Tweens

Feeding a tween is like riding a rollercoaster. Some days it’s exhilarating: we’re intrepid explorers, discovering new flavors together! Other times it’s the pits: we’re stuck in a rut and we’re going to be eating mac and cheese for the rest of our lives!

My 10-year-old son is by turns adventurous and avoidant. He loves sushi but hates sandwiches. He’s into spicy foods but refuses to taste bananas or mashed potatoes. As a busy parent, I’ve developed a few strategies to help my temperamental tween try new things and get the nutrients he needs:

1. Salad first. Late afternoon is prime grazing time, so I make sure I’ve got plenty of prepped fruits and veggies on hand. At our house, the favorites are apples, carrots, snap peas, avocado, cantaloupe and grapes. On a typical day, the kid has already consumed a couple of servings before the grown-ups sit down to dinner.

2. Mix up the meal planning. My son is more likely to try new things when he knows that the following night will feature one of his favorites, like turkey burgers or frozen ravioli with marinara. If dinner involves a new entrée, I let him choose a favorite side, such as Easy Roasted Asparagus or Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

3. Let ‘em in the kitchen. When my son was little, we let him stir sea salt and lemon juice into homemade guacamole. These days, guacamole is his personal specialty, and it adds flair to several quick and easy dinners, such as homemade nachos or Refried Bean and Avocado Soft Tacos.

4. Play with your food. Over the years, I’ve developed a recipe called Green Butterflies and Worms, which features Veggie Packed Pesto + whole wheat farfalle + whatever vegetables can be cut to look like worms: snap peas, green beans, asparagus or julienned red peppers. It’s always a hit, and it’s a great way to introduce new veggies.

5. Allow their interests to lead the way. When our son became interested in Japan, we took him shopping for seaweed and udon noodles. He takes a special interest in sampling dishes, like this soup, made with the ingredients he chose, and he is rightly proud of his international palate. (Now, if his interests would just expand to Indian food…)

Do you have a temperamental tween? What does he or she like to eat? I’d love to learn some new strategies that have worked for other parents.