The holidays can be a wonderful time when family and friends gather around the table and enjoy some of the biggest feasts of the year. It can also be a stressful and disastrous celebration (who forgot to brine the turkey?!). Add to that one, two or a handful of picky eaters and what should be an idyllic dining experience can turn into a sobbing meltdown — for kids and parents alike.
You can help your holiday dinner run smoothly by having kid-friendly options available. Here are our tips for hosting a kid-friendly meal.
Tips for success
- Keep it simple. Sometimes our grown-up palates are just too much for the little ones. While we love to impress our guests with the newest culinary fads and exotic ingredients, make sure there are a few classics at the table. Wow your friends with a deep-fried sriracha turkey, but make sure to have a simple roasted turkey (or chicken) breast on the ready, too.
- Get kids involved. One of the best ways to get picky eaters to try new dishes — whether it’s during the holidays or a weeknight dinner — is to get them involved in the process. When kids get to pick the dish, shop for the ingredients or help prepare the food, they feel empowered and in control of their food choices. They will be more willing to participate in the process and even try something new.
- Let them try it first. And when they do try something new, encourage and praise them — but don’t force it. Try a “no thank you bite” and let them experiment with a little taste before committing to the whole dish. Sometimes it will be a hard pass after a small nibble, but other times many more bites will follow and a new favorite is found.
Though it’s tricky to satisfy everyone’s taste and dietary preferences around the dining table, we think you’ll find these holiday-inspired side dishes to be a hit with both picky and gourmet eaters.
Recipes to try
This is a fun activity (and a healthy snack) to keep kids entertained before the main event. And, this side dish might just stave off the “hangry” if dinner is running late. Little ones will love toasting their sweet potato “bread” (grown-ups, help them out, as the toast will be hot) and picking their favorite toppings. Cream cheese and pumpkin seeds are a perfect combination of creamy and crunch, or sweeten it up a bit with your favorite nut butter and roasted apples.
You may laugh at the idea of feeding your little ones Brussels sprouts. But when roasted and caramelized in a hot oven, these often-feared veggies take on a surprisingly sweet taste. Mix that with naturally sweet (not to mention, packed with vitamins) butternut squash and cranberries and you’ll have an unlikely winner on your hands. Try this super-hot roasting technique with other veggies — like carrots and parsnips — to help bring out their natural sugars too.
A twist on the traditional sweet potato casserole, this dish leaves out the marshmallows but adds something just as sweet (and a bit healthier): pineapple. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, let the little ones help scoop and mash them. A splash of orange juice and a sprinkling of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg will make this dish almost like dessert (and no one will miss the marshmallows).
If you get tired of the same old mashed potatoes, try this unique twist. Kids will laugh at this strange looking root vegetable, but will love helping to mash and smash their way to the finished dish (either by hand or in a food processor). If your kids aren’t keen on spice, omit the turmeric and mix in a bit of roasted apples or Parmesan cheese.
Somewhere between a side dish and a french fry, kids will love this sweet and crisp snack. Let your kids help with the spiralizer and snip strands with scissors that get out of control. They can eat these spirals as-is, or use them as a topping on almost any part of their meal.
If your kids love mashed potatoes and pancakes, they will find this side dish irresistible. A healthy dose of shredded cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of bacon make these pancakes as much fun to make as they are to eat!
The sweet potato crust is a colorful and unusual way to make dough for this gluten-free quiche. Kids won’t even notice how many veggies they are eating in this heartier side dish, packed with cauliflower and kale. It’s also great for some of your pickier adult guests because it’s easily adaptable to meet vegetarian or paleo diets.
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by New Seasons Market.