For adults, Thanksgiving is all about gluttony. Stuffing oneself until we’re as stuffed as the turkey, then going back for more. For children — picky eaters in particular — traditional Thanksgiving dishes may not have quite the same appeal.
So many of the traditional dishes that we adults love…rich gravies, creamy green bean casseroles, fruit-and-veggie-studded stuffing…are the same things that give many children pause. Since most picky eaters prefer things that are on the plain side — no sauces, no lumps — these unfamiliar dishes, presented in “casserole” format, are eyed each with dubious hesitation.
I have a strong feeling that we’re going to be dealing with this issue in our family this Thanksgiving. At two-and-a-half, this is the first year that my daughter Lillian will be fully participating in the food traditions of the holiday. She’s also smack in the middle of her own personal picky phase and generally just more interested in play time (or dessert time) than mealtime, so my expectations for turkey day are pretty low going in.
Even so, I’m hoping that with some out-of-the-box thinking we can come up with a few side dish offerings that might appeal to discerningly plain palates. After looking around on Pinterest and asking blogger friends to share their best kid-friendly holiday sides, I think we’ve got some intriguing options to consider.
How adorable is this veggie tray from Stop Lookin Get Cookin? This seems like such an appealing way to get kids excited about eating raw veggies and simple enough that even little ones could help with preparations.
I’m drooling over this Pumpkin Honey Cornbread from Feed Your Soul Too. A slightly sweet, cake-like bread should be a relatively easy sell with kiddos, but I’m really loving that he snuck some pumpkin and corn into the recipe. Every bit of nutrition counts!
These Baked Quinoa Poppers developed by Smart Eating for Kids contributor Kate Byers would be a fun, out-of-the-box alternative to traditional stuffing. Her recipe is pretty straight-forward but you could easily mix in some traditional “stuffing” ingredients like celery, chopped apples and sage for a holiday flair. The bite sized nature of the recipe seems like an appealing alternative for the stuffing-averse.
Inviting Veggies (and Fruit!)
When I started thinking about this post, the first recipe that came to mind is one that I developed years ago as an alternative to traditional green bean casserole, which I tend to find a bit too mushy and gloppy for my liking. My version, originally posted to my own blog A Homemaker’s Habitat, features plain, steamed green beans plated over a homemade mushroom cream sauce, then topped with crispy onions. This seems like a great choice for picky eaters because the sauce is essentially optional. If all they’ll eat is a couple of plain green beans (and maybe a crispy onion or two), wish granted!
Okay, so I know Brussels sprouts might be a tough sell for some kids in any format, but I have high hopes for these two recipes. The first, from Gourmet Meals for Less, features Brussels sprouts and bacon roasted on skewers. Read: On A STICK. With bacon. If ever there was a recipe that could get kids to eat their brussels sprouts, I think this is it.
The second, from my dear friend Meghan at The Tasty Fork, once again pairs bacon with the Brussels sprouts and she adds in red grapes of all things! What a unique and fun surprise! This one seems like it could be easily adapted to the skewer format if you think the magic of Food On Sticks will work in your house, but to me the grapes just seem like such a fun twist that kids might really love.
This next dish — Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples from Cooking with my Kid, seems like proof that sometimes simple is best. Forget the marshmallows from the candied version, or the gloppy casserole version. Simply roasted, this dish seems like an appealing, familiar-ish choice for kiddos.
Technically, this last choice is a fruit but we can’t talk Thanksgiving without the cranberries, so here goes. When I was little, I hated cranberries. Later I figured out that I just didn’t like my mother’s recipe, which was heavy on the orange zest and short on the sugar (read bitter). This version from Teaspoon of Spice features cranberries, honey, orange juice and ginger, a combination that seems like it would appeal to adults and kids alike.
For more great recipe ideas, as well as some fun crafts and Thanksgiving activities, check out our SEFK Thanksgiving Pinterest board. And really, whether you’re worried about eating too much yourself or the kids not eating at all, I supposed the same sage advice applies: Thanksgiving is just one day a year and a special one at that so we can probably turn off the mom guilt and just go with it.
I wish you a safe, relaxing and nourishing Thanksgiving!