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Raising little gourmets

Your 8-year-old only eats pizza and spaghetti. Your toddler can’t stand the sight of vegetables. Your pre-teen stuffs herself silly with sweets. No wonder you’re anxious about your kids’ diets. Not only can they seem dangerously unhealthy, but they’re stuck in the kiddie meal land of fried chicken, pizza and spaghetti. Will you ever be able to bring your kids to a gourmet restaurant that serves great tasting sophisticated fare without a kiddie meal in sight?!

While there’s no guarantee your kids can ever leave their kiddie comfort food behind, there’s still hope. It’s just a matter of acknowledging your children’s preferences and taking it from there. Who knows? Before long, they’ll be trading in their favorite sweet spaghetti for a vongole, or their must-have cheese pizza for a quiche Lorraine!

Desserts Galore

My eldest daughter is an acknowledged sweet tooth and I certainly don’t want to deprive her of her sweet pleasures, in moderation of course. While kids usually go for the ubiquitous chocolate cake, cookies and ice cream, there’s a whole world of sweets to discover. The key is to start with what your kids like about desserts (it’s creamy, chocolate-y, fruity) and play around with them in different ways. Your kids may enjoy flourless chocolate cake with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, creamy panna cotta and caramel apple pie

Beyond spaghetti

My 9-year-old son is spaghetti addicted. He loves it so much that we have to have it at home at least twice a week. Like my son, if your child won’t look at other pastas, then start with what he loves best. Encourage him to order spaghetti Bolognese whenever the family eats out. He’ll find out that there are many versions of this pasta favorite. He may not

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like it at first, but his love for spaghetti may actually get him interested in experimenting with different varieties that still offer the same basic components—meat, tomatoes and pasta. Start with amatriciana sauce with tomatoes, bacon and cheese, ragu alla bolognese (a slow-cooked meat stew not to be confused with spaghetti Bolognese), and oriental noodles.

The Vegetable Obstacle

It seems like most kids carry an ‘anti-vegetable’ gene, just like my two sons who won’t touch the green stuff at all. While we always have at least one vegetable dish on our family table, it still takes repeated reminders to get them to partake. So, we just make sure there are veggies snuck into most of the dishes served, whether it’s in the soup, rice or viands. There’s no escape! But if all else fails, just pray that one day your child will see the light. (Take it from me, a former veggie hater who now loves her greens!) Sneak in veggies through meatballs (mix finely chopped carrots, spinach or malunggay into the meat), pasta sauce, fried rice, and veggie soup (blend vegetables like squash, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower to make into a creamy soup without any unseemly whole veggies in sight).

Fried Chicken Forever

Who doesn’t love fried chicken? Is it any wonder that your kids think it’s the greatest food on earth (it really is!). It’s full of crunch and flavor and isn’t swimming in any suspicious-looking sauces. My youngest son just loves that crunch, so what we’ve done is expanded his repertoire of crunchy food beyond fried chicken. A coating of breadcrumbs, cereal or oatmeal will give that much sought after crunch, especially if the dish is baked. Crunchy dishes that taste almost as good as fried chicken: fried or baked fish fillet, breaded pork chops, roast chicken with crispy skin, and crunchy meatballs. Look for healthy recipes at sites like allrecipes.com which have recipe submissions from moms like you!

Photo from chambanamoms.com

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