I am a bit of an artist. I used to regularly sketch, draw and paint. However, since having kids, drawing and painting has taken a backseat to the many tasks of motherhood. These days my art is most often expressed in other ways, one of which is creating visually appealing, eye-catching plates of food for my children. I want them to love food. Not just any food, but high quality, real, whole foods.
Are your lunches (or dinners, for that matter) stuck in day-in, day-out monotony? Try perking up your kids' appetites for real, whole foods with a plateful of color.
Excite the Senses!
I'm a firm believer in an attractive plate. It's not just about how food tastes, but how it smells and how it looks. Before your kids taste their food, they see it. An attractive plate of food draws them to the table and excites their minds and tongues for what they are about to taste. A visually striking plate can perk up an ordinary meal time and encourage adventurous eating and exploration of new foods.
There are many ways to create an eye-catching plate. You can check out Pinterest for all kinds of ideas on creating edible animals, cars and trucks, faces and pretty much anything you can imagine. But many of those ideas, while very cute, are a bit labor intensive for the everyday meal or for multiple kids. Most require particular food items you may or may not have on hand, including packaged and processed foods.
I've found that by simply working with color, I can quickly craft a bright and cheery plate for my kids that catches their eyes, grabs their attention and excites them for mealtime.
There are two easy ways to work with color: one is using a lot of different colors and the other is emphasizing just one color.
All through the toddler years, my older two children loved having what I called “rainbow lunches.” I would put a little bit of this and that on their plates, making sure each item was a different color.
Because I would add a lot of items, I would keep the portions small. I soon found I could sneak all kinds of nutritious foods onto those “rainbow lunch” plates. Lunch as a whole presentation looked exciting, and having to eat only one or two bites (or pieces) of a new or un-liked item was not very intimidating, especially with so many other familiar, well-liked foods to eat.
Not only that, but there were so many choices… what to eat first? An exciting dilemma for little ones! My kids were always eager to attack their plates, and they always cleared their plates.
Even now at ages 8 and 7, when I place a “rainbow lunch” on the table, my two older kids still get excited. Though now they discuss their plates together and tell me which color of the rainbow I missed and which colors I included that are not in the rainbow!
Instead of working with lots of colors, you can also work with just one color, like red, green or orange. Some days I declare it “Orange Day” and place a plate full of orange foods in front of them, or “Pinky-Red Day” and plop a plate of pinky-red foods down on the table.
I almost always tack on a reason, because a reason makes the ordinary seem more special: “It's Orange Day today because we're celebrating fall!” or “Today, it's Pinky-Red Day because its dreary and rainy and we need something to cheer us up. For little ones, you don't have to have a whole plan; a simple on-the-spot reason piques their interest and makes lunchtime a bit more special.
As you can see from the orange photo at the top of the post and the red photo above, the foods don't have to all be an identical shade of orange or red — just generally orangish or generally reddish works. A monochromatic plate emphasizes one color, creating a striking effect.
In fact, while I was photographing the red plate, my 2 year old was at the table watching me. Not more than 5 seconds after I had finished snapping the last photo, a little hand shot out from across the table and swiped food right off the plate! Enticing? Yes! My toddler fell for it and couldn't resist helping herself to some of that yummy-looking, bright, colorful food.
A Rut No More
When lunchtime is stuck in a rut, get rid of the lunchtime blahs by creating a plateful of color. Get those sweet little tongues and tummies excited for their mid-day nourishment!
Do tell — what color will be featured on your kids' lunch plates tomorrow?
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