Family health

Picky eaters: How to make meals fun for the family

Crystal discovers new ways to introduce healthy foods to her young daughter as part of the Healthy Family Challenge.

By Crystal Allen
Picky eaters: How to make meals fun for the family Crystal breaks down the Totellini and Bean soup for her daughter. Below: Balloon volleyball.

"Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase! Hakuna Matata, ain't no passing craze!"

The music is cranked up on the iPod dock and the Allen-Madrilejos family is getting their sillies out. It's Bella's turn to play DJ and music from The Lion King is her number one choice. Bella is pumped up. Dance parties are usually impromptu weekend affairs at our house. This, however, is a planned, mid-week, post-dinner dance party! Music choices have been carefully been selected throughout the day, dance moves practiced in front of mirrors and the anticipation that we are going to boogie on down has been building up since breakfast.

The pots and pans sit unwashed on our kitchen counter and we are having fun — as a family. We have purposefully said, "The dishes can wait, we are going to spend some time being active and having fun before the kids go to bed." The same thing happened the night before when we had our family balloon volleyball tournament. Bella is elated by the time we are spending after dinner doing fun things together.

This is the gift that the Today's Parent Healthy Family Challenge has given my daughter. I have to admit, when I was first approached to take part in the challenge I thought about how it would effect me. I'm the mom of a four-year-old and an eight-month-old. I'm on maternity leave. I have extra pounds that I need to take off. I want to set a better example for my children — there must be other moms across North America that can relate to that right? Hopefully, I could inspire at least one person and in return I would be forced to get back on track and be held accountable for setting wellness goals and achieving them. For some reason it didn't really occur to me how much the rest of my family would be affected by this challenge. Bella and I do activities together constantly, but often they are craft projects that I can share on my blog Sew Creative instead of physical activities.

Picky eaters: How to make meals fun for the family

So here is how Bella, the world's pickiest eater and daughter of a not-the-most-active crafter, was affected by the challenge this week.


1. She ate a whole bunch of new foods that she mostly hated, but found a few that she really loved. Turns out my kiddo loves cucumbers but never knew it because she was too afraid to try them. Now they will be a vegetable that we will regularly buy at the grocery store.

2. Her mommy figured out that she doesn't like her foods mixed together. You would think that after four years I would have already known this, but it really clicked for me this week. If I tried to get Bella to eat Tortellini and Bean Soup we would have sat at the table for hours, trying to force her to eat it and then the evening would have ended in tears. However, if I take all the ingredients of the soup, deconstruct it and give her a small bowl of broth, a handful of tortellini and a pile of edamame my kid will gobble it up!

3. She had a blast playing with her family. The dance party and balloon volleyball were two of her favourites but getting Mommy into a bathing suit after a year-and-a-half of being landlocked was priceless.

Biggest takeaways this week:

  • Deconstruct your picky eaters' food, it just may get them eating.
  • Dishes can wait, time with your family is way more valuable.

Until next week friends! I hope you are finding this challenge just as valuable as I am. I'd love to hear how your first week went. (Tweet #tpchallenge @todaysparent and @sewcreativeblog if you want to connect.)

This article was originally published on Mar 13, 2013

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