Editor’s Note: Do not feed almonds or other nuts to small children as they may cause choking and lodge in their lungs. Please remember that allergies to nuts among both children and adults can cause serious health problems. Please check with your doctor.
Antone Chicca, admits that he “didn’t like anything” when he was a child. One of four adult Chicca children, he remembers family meals as “challenging.” Today, he appreciates the culinary skills of his mother. “I’d rather eat anything at mom’s house than dine out at any restaurant,” he says with pride. “…except for beets.”
Betty spoke about meal preparation for a family of six. “I was not going to accommodate the individual diet preferences of four children. Jerry (who often serves as the family sous chef) and I preferred lighter dinners – fish and vegetables – which the children would not touch. We had to compromise. I had to be a little creative to make meals that had something for everyone. ”
Here are a few of Betty’s secrets:
- Create your own version of “Let’s Pretend.” Chicken Piccata, for instance, became “Italian Chicken Nuggets,” a cherished family favorite.
- Put vegetables on the table at every meal; sometimes cooked, and sometimes raw. This introduces children to different tastes, textures and varieties. Eventually something will capture their attention.
- Pasta – particularly homemade – introduces children to a variety of sauces. Seasonal vegetables can be incorporated into the pasta.
- Tomato sauce is a great vehicle for other foods. If a child likes tomato sauce, serve a vegetable with a dollop of the sauce on top.
- Cut up a variety of root and row vegetables into thin sticks, for instance, sweet potatoes and carrots. Roast until almost soft. Serve with a dipping tomato sauce. Let the child make his or her selection, and dip the vegetable into the sauce, using the fingers. This creates both a sense of fun at the table, while developing independence in making healthy food choices.
- Don’t fight over food preferences. As a child matures, the food frenzy will fade.
Antone admits that his Chicca siblings retain some picky eater push-backs of childhood. Brother Alex: no fish or shellfish; Sisters Victoria: no processed food; Brianna: selective dislikes. Betty is waiting for her children to have picky eaters of their own.