When I say presentation is everything, I don’t mean you have to make everything your child eats into a cute animal or that you should add dashes, splashes and garnishes like fancy restaurants. I mean that our senses are integrated into our every experience, especially experiences with food. It’s been shown that the way food looks on our plate affects how we perceive it to taste and sound has even been shown to affect our perception of how fresh or salty a food tastes.
Here are 3 tips for presenting food to picky eaters:
1. Small Portions
Sight is one of our strongest senses. We learn a lot about something by just looking at it. Large amounts of food can be overwhelming and what is small for us is still pretty large to a toddler. Think in terms of toddler bites and give 3-4 bites of 2-3 foods at a time on a plate. They’ll probably eat more than that at some meals and snacks, but there are always seconds and thirds, if they want them!
2. Keep Foods Separate
It’s quite a cliché that kids don’t like their foods to touch, but some things are cliché because they’re true. Kids are still learning about individual foods. Some want to mash it all together and don’t care, but usually picky eaters don’t want their food to touch. Serving small portions of foods with lots of negative space between is much less overwhelming than a full plate with servings sliding into each other.
Keeping foods separate also allows kids to investigate and learn about each food separately. If they’re not comfortable with a food on it’s own they’re not going to want to eat it in something, if they know it’s there. I’m not against sneaking fruits, veggies and protein into other foods undetected, but it’s not a great long-term plan. Kids still need to learn about foods to get comfortable with them. There’s no short-cut there.
3. Stay Positive
Our attitude and demeanor is a huge part of how we present food, though we may not notice it because we’re so focused on the food! Anyone being served is taking in both the food and the server. If a waiter served you food saying he was unsure if it would taste good, you would probably take your first bite a bit unsure too, testing the waters. If he set down the same dish excited that you had the opportunity to try the chef’s masterpiece, you would probably take your first bite excited to try something amazing.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a cheerleader and exclaim that you’re so excited your family gets to try the chef’s masterpiece every night, though you certainly can, and I like it! But you could try staying neutral, letting your kids try foods if they will, and staying calm and shrugging it off if they don’t want to eat. Easier said than done, but here are some great tips from Supernanny on how to stay calm with kids that might help.