Do you ever watch shows like Top Chef or Iron Chef? There’s something special that you’ll notice on those shows – it’s not just about how the food tastes. Presentation plays a big part too. Now, I’m not trying to stress you out – I know that sometimes just getting some food on the table is a big enough job in our busy lives and now I’m trying to suggest that you make it look nice too? It can be a lot easier than you think.
The first thing you should consider is colour. The other night I was really tired and just grabbed a few leftovers out of the fridge to heat up for my dinner. It wasn’t until I sat down to eat that I noticed what I had done. I was having macaroni and cheese, squash, and corn. Yep, my entire meal was yellow. In all honesty, I was fine with that – they were all very tasty leftovers that I had really enjoyed the first time around and because of how they had been prepared, they each brought quite distinct flavours so flavour-wise, it was a nicely balanced meal. But, I was also really hungry and really tired. Had it been a night where I was in one of those pickier eating moods, there were have been nothing there that was visually appealing that might encourage my appetite. Creating a more colourful meal is one way enhance the presentation of your food.
Making food visually appealing for kids can be a huge issue too – it can be a great way to encourage healthy eating and to encourage them to try something new. Sure, colour is part of it, but for kids, making the food look “cute” or “fun” can also help. What I found helpful was to write out some ideas for enhancing my food presentation – I put them on index cards and then taped them to the insides of my kitchen cabinets so that they were a readily accessible resource. I would also put these ideas right onto my meal plan – for example, I might put under Thursday dinner – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots, applesauce – serve as a muffin tin meal. Sometimes I kept a second copy of the meal plan in my household organization binder with these additional notes on it so they would be a surprise for my daughter.
Ideas for Food Presentation for Kids:
I mentioned “muffin tin meals” above. My daughter loved these and there were a great one to pull out when she was sick in bed as well. One of the small kiddie cups would fit into one of the openings so it held her drink (more securely than a regular tray) making it ideal for a meal in bed. Then I could fill the other sections with small portions, just the right size for when you’re not feeling well and the variety there as well as the presentation in a muffin tin (kids seem to find this so much fun!) made the food a little more appealing and encouraged her to eat a bit. I had some little plastic containers that fit into the muffin tin sections as well – these were great for serving a small quantity of applesauce or soup or something like that. Muffin tin meals were also a great idea for filling and then allowing my daughter to take it outside to eat on a nice day. Again it’s easier to carry without spilling than a regular tray! Finally, just as a special treat, I would hand her a muffin tin and then give her some choices of healthy foods – often from our drawer of snacks or the bin of snacks in the fridge – and let her pick and choose what she wanted. Sure, it was a meal basically comprised of snacks (little mini sandwiches cut out with cookie cutters fit well into the sections too!) but they were good, healthy foods so why not?
Make the food you’re giving your children look cute! If you do a web search for “Bento boxes”, you’ll see all kinds of ideas for it – be warned though – some are pretty intricate and involved! But, I have a few ideas for you that take only a minute or two. It may seem like an obvious suggestion, but really, simply cutting out a sandwich with a shaped cookie cutter can do WONDERS for making it more appealing for kids. I would save the “scraps” and use those for my own lunch or I’d cut the bread out separately and then add the sandwich filling. That way I could cut up the scraps of bread into pieces, lightly toast and dry them in the oven, and save for croutons.
Flickr, Claudia Assad
A cute idea for Halloween is to use a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter – then on one of the slices of bread, use a knife to cut out Jack O’Lantern features. Some of our bakeries even sell bread that has been tinted with food colouring (my daughter’s favourite was the rainbow bread) or if you make your own bread, you could toss in a little food colouring. Fun colours can be very appealing for a lot of kids! With my own daughter and in my classroom, we would add colouring to other foods too – for example, we had “Green Eggs and Ham” day during Dr. Seuss week. I’d melt some butter in the skillet and add green food colouring to that – cook the eggs and ham in the coloured butter and it takes on a green hue to it.
Flickr, d u g y u
Make an open “faced” sandwich for your kids – how about an egg salad sandwich and then use some alfalfa sprouts to create hair, a piece of red pepper as a smile, olive slices as eyes, and a small gherkin as a nose? There are tons of options to choose from! With older kids, you could let them design their own face sandwiches – for example, give them some peanut butter and bread and then some raisins or other dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and so on and let them come up with it themselves!
Serve food parfait style! They always look so yummy don’t they? Those layers of different colours and textures really appeal to our senses. You can achieve the same kind of idea with healthier alternatives. Try layering plain yogurt with cut up fruit, seeds, nuts, granola or cereals OR give your kids a variety of ingredients and let them make their own parfait.
Who doesn’t love food on a stick? Just make sure that a kabob is age appropriate for the child – you don’t want those pointy skewers to become weapons! Use a selection of fruits or vegetables cut up into chunks and slide them onto skewers. You can even add a crossbeam on to turn this into a totem pole! You can add some pieces of cheese or small cubes of cooked meat like ham or chicken if you want some protein in the mix. Serve with a healthy dip on the side. For younger kids, you can use pretzel sticks as the skewers and put softer cheeses and fruits like grapes or berries on them.
Stay tuned! Lots more Fun with Food ideas to come!
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