Small Mouths, Small Bites

Happy day after Mother’s Day! I was planning to give you a garden tour this morning to celebrate the new plantings that were part of our Mother’s Day festivities, but the rain has chased me inside… well, okay, I never made it out.  A garden update is in our future, and it’s very exciting, at least in my humble opinion.  Dead seedlings were replaced and the garden is exploding, and when the sun comes out, I’ll show you.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about lunch.  Okay, I think it’s pretty clear to all of you that I’m thinking about food most of the time, but lunch has been on my mind ever since I registered my wee ones for kindergarten in the fall.  I have already resigned myself to packing lunches daily, a plan that was reinforced when I looked at the school lunch menu – but that’s another post for a day when I’m already in a bad mood, because it will have a pretty high percentage of rant in it.  For this gentle rainy morning, I just want to explore a trend that has emerged in yummy, nutritious, fun lunches for me and my little people.  I’ve stumbled upon a recurring theme.  Small bites.

In Big Sis’ discussion of Lunchables (Lunchables are also a zen threatener for me, so I’ll be brief here), she conceded that the packaging of these products (many of which have as much sugar as a Snickers bar, BTW) is kid-sexy.  Little compartments, small amounts, a variety that they can choose from, assemble, control.  The bento box craze reveals some of the same appeal.  Compartments that contain small amounts of various bits that they can choose between, manipulate, control. Honestly, this has also been one of my favorite things about eating Ethiopian food or tapas: variety, tastes, experiments.

So with these thoughts in mind, I decided to put a lunch together that really offered as many different bites a I could fit on the plate, a strong element of choice, some possibilities for assembly and experimentation.  I included one new food, and some things they’ve been reluctant to eat in the past as well as some old standbys.  This was not revolutionary; I’ve offered my kids strange little collections of food before, but I’ve not been this deliberate about it, nor have I ever watched and listened as carefully while we ate.  I tried to be quiet (this is hard for me) and see what choices they would make without pressure. This lunch was remarkably successful.  Was it the quantities?  Was it the variety?  The fact that they couldn’t help but have a healthy lunch if they ate any two of the items on the plate?  I have no idea; what I DO know is that they both ate most of it.  And my little picky one ASKED about 2/3 of the way through the meal if she could skip the rest of the celery if she ate all the other veggies, because the flavor of celery is okay, but she doesn’t like the way it feels in her mouth….  If you’ve eaten with my daughter, you know this is not the way our meal conversations usually go.  Delightful.  And Daddy and I got to finish the dip which they liked with the apples and on the bagel, but not on everything else.  My preference was to have it with the celery and banana.

Nutty Lunch Dip

  • 4 T peanut butter
  • 4 T plain yogurt (I used almond yogurt)
  • 1/2 t maple syrup
  • generous shake cinnamon

Ready for another miraculous cooking procedure?  Put all those bits in a bowl and stir them thoroughly to make smooth yum.  Adjust ingredients to taste.  If it seems like a little more sweet would be good, try a little more cinnamon first; you may be surprised.  When you’ve got it tasting the way you want, dip a few things in it.  Let your inner five your old take control of the lunch plate.  Pretend you don’t already know what tastes good together; you just might find something new hiding in the guise of an old trusted and predictable vegetable.  Nutty small bites for all!  Delish.

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34 responses

  1. We have been making little lunches with lots of bites like that for ages! It’s true that if they eat even a small portion of it, they are getting something much healthier than a lunch-able. I have packed school lunch for my daughter every day since we went plant based. I am however, freaking out about my son starting pre-school this fall. As he is only 3, he doesn’t know how to be accountable for his food choices and I can only imagine the battle I am going to have with the pre-school providers over just giving him what I send with him and not the normal kid fare of fruit snacks, cheese sticks, goldfish or chips :/ Scary! Because he has eaten all those things in our home (pre-plant-based enlightenment) he knows what they are and wants them. Blast.

    One other interesting thing is that I called the school to ask if they have the ability to provide plant-based meals for kids (a neighbor encouraged me, she said they offer gluten free meals for kids, so why not plant-based kids?). The lunch lady said the GOVERNMENT requires them to serve meat at every meal to make sure the kids are receiving complete proteins. Ratbags!

      • That’s an interesting question! They probably pack lunches too. I need to do more research and get to the bottom of it. America’s obsession with protein is driving me bonkers. Every time someone finds out I’m plant based I get asked the same question… Where do you get your protein?!? Like I’m some kind of nutrient deprived nut case. Thankfully, it becomes a little teaching moment in most cases, but most people leave the conversation secretly rolling their eyes at my craziness.

      • I mean, they don’t ask an elephant where its protein comes from, right? Hippos? Rhinos? If those huge bodies can hack it, why can’t ours? Hard to undo all the programming.

  2. Yes! I still do this for my four year old. I use ice cube trays, divided plates and even bought a “nibble tray” off of amazon. I think she likes the variety and being able to pick and choose, like you said. Sometimes I can tell if she is going to like a new food just based on the mood she is in at the time that I offer it. But whenever I give her a “tummy tray” (as we call them), she is usually happy. :-)

    • Isn’t it funny? I guess if adults can be swayed by presentation, there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect kids to be as well. Hadn’t thought of ice cube trays. That’s darned clever.

  3. I believe that it was Ruth Yaron ( of Super Baby Food Fame) who suggests using a small muffin tin for this purpose – a little 6 pack of mini-muffins or something. Or maybe there are other things around the house that would be amenable to placing bits of food in fun pockets? We used to use plastic egg carriers for camping that closed and held 6 eggs… that would be a fun format! And I’m going to try that dip – sounds very yummy indeed!

    • You are very welcome. It takes a lot of ideas to keep little monkeys well fed, doesn’t it? I am often jogged out of a rut my my fellow bloggers. Thanks for hosting and pinning!

  4. My kids always enjoyed having options and texture was usually the biggest hurdle. This is a great idea for anyone trying to figure out what their kids enjoy and why–too often I think we assume it is flavor when it is really texture (my kids disliked cooked carrots, but liked raw carrots). Thanks for sharing on Hearth & Soul Hop. :)

    • Texture is huge over here as well and my picky one has just gotten old enough to be able to explain a little bit about WHY she dislikes things, which is good since she dislikes SO many of them. :-)

  5. Variety is the spice of life seems to be especially true for little kids and their food. We love mixing 1/2 yogurt, 1/2 peanut butter together, so yummy!!! It is really shocking how tasty it is. Thanks for sharing this tasty idea on Natural Living Monday!

  6. Pingback: My Sister’s Pantry Loafing Around with the VVP | my sister's pantry

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