Kosher food expert and cookbook author Paula Shoyer has four grown children, so she’s used to finicky eaters. But when she took one of her sons to a teenage pediatrician appointment, the doctor gave her the seal of approval every parent craves.
“I mention you in all my talks,” he told her. “How did you do it? All four of your kids are really good eaters! They eat a variety of foods. I’ve never seen this in my practice!”
What more could a Jewish mother want?
Her latest cookbook, “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion,” is full of delicious Jewish recipes with healthy spins (potato and scallion latkes, sourdough challah). Many of the dishes are vegan or gluten-free.
She thinks American parents have it all wrong. She lived in Switzerland as a young mother, and she saw firsthand how European parents feed their children. They’re not eager to please. They don’t try a food once and then abandon it when their child spits it onto the plate. No. They persist. And persist we must, she says.
Here are her secrets for getting children to eat healthfully, and to try new things.
Leave no vegetable behind
Instead of assuming that your kid hates carrots after one failed attempt at carrot sticks, get creative. “American parents will give kids broccoli, and if the kid doesn’t like it, they won’t make it again,” she says. Shoyer prefers the “leave no vegetable behind” approach. Grate them. Puree them. Sauté them with soy sauce. “Reintroduce the food over and over, in different ways,” she says. Eventually, you’ll strike on a preparation they like.
You know we spend lots of time and energy trying to keep our children away from screens? When it comes to vegetables, abandon that notion right away. Instagram is a fabulous way to banish images of limp string beans and mushy carrots. Shoyer follows Nealy Fischer (The Flexible Chef) and Melissa Mayo.
Don’t overcomplicate it
You don’t need to whip up a gourmet meal for your child in order to sneak in healthy ingredients. Simplicity is often best (and cheaper). Shoyer’s son Joey likes cauliflower, sliced thick like a steak, grilled and brushed with oil, topped with orange juice and zest, garlic and oil. That’s it. Four ingredients. It looks beautiful and is easy to make.
Kids love dishes they can prepare themselves, because it offers the notion of control: pizza with a choice of toppings, fajitas, tacos. Set out a few different choices and let them mix and match their favorites.
Take it or leave it
Shoyer only cooks one meal for her kids, every night. None of this specialty stuff. She sets out a cooked vegetable, a raw vegetable, a grain and a protein. “I don’t care if you just eat the pasta. I don’t care if you just eat the chicken. The only other options for you are peanut butter and jelly or a yogurt. Never cook special meals for kids,” she urges. “Once they have teeth, they eat what everyone else is eating.”
Sound promising? Learn more here.