My kids are a pain in the butt to feed. Unless I dish up sausages every single night, I face dinner wars to get them to at least have one mouthful of the nutritious dinner I have cooked. So the other day I asked my Facebook parent buddies what meals their kids always eat. I wanted to get a little kiddie dinner winner list together to spare myself some pain at 6pm when I holler, “Boys, dinner time”.
This is what they came up with (and yes, I know these are not ALL healthy but my friends promise me they are guaranteed to get eaten in their household, and some nights we just need a sure-thing to fill up those little empty bellies!). I hope they help you if you are in the same frustrating boat as me.
1. Boiled eggs with soldier toast
My friend Penny says this is her go-to dinner with her kiddos.
“Soft boiled egg with toasty soldiers is a winner for me. They love dipping the bread into the yolk and I love this simple meal because eggs are easy, healthy and always in the fridge.”
2. Spag bol with hidden veggies
Rebecca tells me that she struggles to get her two-year-old to eat veggies, so she does what many parents have done before her; she hides them in his food. Her bolognese sauce, which he always gobbles up with spaghetti, contains pureed vegetables. Sneaky and so genius!
3. Frozen chicken nuggets and fish fingers
Quite a few of my friends listed kid-favourite chicken nuggets and fish fingers as a go-to dinner. While most felt a little guilty about serving this not-that-healthy freezer option, they also felt that some nights called for them.
“When I get home late on Thursdays after working and picking up the kids, I don’t have the time to make anything else or the energy to fight with them over eating it,” says Tess. “They love Thursday nights!” And of course, you can always shove a couple of cherry tomatoes and a few slices of cucumber onto the plate too, so you can feel the teensiest bit virtuous about serving up some fresh veggies to go with all that straight-from-the-freezer crumbed food!
4. Sausages and couscous
In my household, my dinner winner with my two fussy little eaters is the healthiest sausages I can find (low in salt) with a side of couscous and some vegetables. I save a little couscous and use this as bribery to get them to eat their vegetables – “Eat that carrot and piece of broccoli and you can have some more couscous” – type thing.
5. “Clean noodles” with bacon and veggies
Bizarrely, my friend Sally says her little one will only eat noodles if they don’t have sauce on them. She simply serves up boiled rice noodles and adds a side of bacon and vegetables. Preferably not touching. It seems with little ones that the plainer the meal, the more likely they are to eat it.
6. Dinner tasting plate
Sally also gives her little one a cold ‘tasting plate’. “This includes his favourite foods that he can just pick at, things like cold meats, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fruit – he loves strawberries – cheese and crackers. And then I just hope he eats something!”
7. Fish and rice
Emma tells me her kids love salmon and white fish. They prefer it plain and served with rice. While crumbed white fish always gets eaten, Emma concedes she doesn’t even go to that much effort most of the time. “They like fish steamed too, or even just nuked in the microwave when I am really running low on time. I make them a side ‘salad’ of avocado, cherry tomatoes and cucumber – which they will pick at. I also pop a cob of corn on their plate. They LOVE corn,” she says.
8. Bowl of raw veggies in front of the TV
Then there was this genius idea from my cousin Lisa: “I give Emma a bowl of raw veggies to eat while she is watching TV and I’m cooking dinner. She is in a mindless state so she zombie eats! Then I serve up her actual dinner later.” Minus those objectionable veggies of course!
9. Chicken schnitzel
The adult version of chicken nuggets is also a popular go-to meal. “I make mine from scratch, so I know what’s in them and I bake them instead of frying them to be healthier,” says my friend Jen. “My entire family will eat dinner on schnitty night.”
10. Tacos or anything Mexican
“Tacos are always a winner in our house,” says Melissa. “I think it’s the novelty factor of hard shells and the fact they look and taste like chips [Doritos]. I can normally mix in enough veg to make it mostly healthy.”
Melissa also tells me that fajitas, tortillas, burritos or any other Mexican “stuff it” type meals that she can make guarantees empty plates and full bellies in her house.
11. Any pasta dish
Lots of my friends listed pasta as a winner with many saying some nights they just serve up plain pasta with a tin of tuna and vegetables. “Honestly, the less effort I go to, the more chance I have of it being eaten!” says Wanda.
Good old mac and cheese also featured regularly in the call-out, with Nisa saying, “I’ve resigned myself to main courses of gluten-free mac ‘n’ cheese – I focus on sides of fruits and veggies.”
12. Pumpkin soup with dipping bread
“My kids refuse to eat pumpkin on its own, but they love pumpkin soup, especially if they can dip a fresh baguette into it and I add some cream to their soup to make it a little bit milder,” says Emma. “I make a big pot on the weekend and we have it over a couple of nights.”