5 Tips To Take The Stress Out Of Meal Time | Guest Post By Monika Sudakov

This week I’m taking a bit of a blog break while off on a vacation with my family. While I’m away, I’ve got quite a treat for you (literally!). Being an entrepreneur runs in our family, and my cousin Monika is an talented chef and owner of an award winning B&B in Illinois. I’ve invited her to share today some tips and tricks for getting even the pickiest of eaters to try and experience new foods. I know Brie and I sure love documenting our cooking adventures in the kitchen so go try one of Monika’s fabulous tips out and be sure to photograph your results once your done!


If you are a mom who has trouble getting her kids to eat healthy foods, you are not alone. At some point in almost every child’s life they will go through a picky phase. There are numerous reasons why this may occur, ranging from peer pressure to mixed messages on TV or ads directed at kids to schools offering less than nutritious or delicious lunch options. No matter what the reason, it’s normal and there are ways to deal with it.

I have worked a lot with feeding therapists in my continuing mission as a chef to teach parents and kids how to cook healthy and delicious recipes and some of the things they have explained to me are very useful even to parents whose kids are not necessarily to the extreme of needing feeding therapy.


One of the biggest concerns moms often have is what I like to call monoconsumption. In other words, your child refuses to eat a diverse number of foods, but rather sticks to one thing they like and know is safe. This is not uncommon. Childrens’ taste buds are not as developed as adults and in fact you have likely noticed that some foods you hated as a kid you may love now. Children tend to have a more heightened taste for sweet, an adaptation to mothers milk, and a lower tolerance for bitter, a built in defense mechanism that helps them to avoid foods that could potentially be toxic for them. I think as long as your child appears to be growing well and doesn’t get sick often, you probably don’t need to worry too much that he or she eats nothing but broccoli or pears. Eventually when they get older they will grow out of this phase.


Another basic issue with children is the texture of foods. While most children tend to move past soft foods once they have been weaned and introduced to adult foods, some children don’t. Learning how to sneak ingredients into their diets that they may not otherwise enjoy is half the battle. One of the best friends of a parent with picky eaters is the smoothie. Passing something nutritious off as a milk shake is an ingenious way of getting your kids to eat, say kale or avocado. Throw the healthy stuff in with their favorite fruits and some plain milk and you’ll be able to get them to consume almost anything.

Here are a few additional basic tools that may help you take the stress out of mealtime:

1) Make food fun.

I know we were always told “Don’t play with your food!!” I say, forget that. Go ahead. Play. Make meal time fun. Use games as a way of getting your kids to try new things. Let them touch new foods and smell them. Food is as much a tactile and olfactory experience as it is an oral one.

2) Get kids involved in the kitchen.

I’m not saying your kids should be preparing a full 5 course meal and doing all the chopping, baking and braising. I’m saying do easy things together. Let them stir something, add some ingredients and just watch. Kids that know where their food comes from are more likely to eat a more varied diet.

3) Don’t set a bad example.

I have on numerous occasions witnessed parents sabotage their kids nutrition. Children are curious so they come over to see what I’m making. Usually it is something colorful with lots of vegetables so it catches their attention. They want to try it and the parent says “We don’t like that.”WHAT??!!!!! Please don’t tell your kids what they should or should not like. They can discover that for themselves. Especially when it comes to eating healthy foods like fruits or vegetables. Do encourage kids to try new things, even if they are things you yourself don’t like. I always say I am willing  try anything once. If I don’t like it, I try it again in a couple of years. My taste buds may have changed or the ingredient may have been prepared poorly to begin with.

4) Explain things to your kids.

I have found that when I tell kids that they are eating something healthy and explain why, they are more likely to want to eat it or at least try it. Believe it or not, they are actually much smarter than they sometimes get credit for. I’m not talking a full doctoral dissertation of the nutrient dense materials in a floret of broccoli. I’m talking about basics like, did you know if you eat this yummy tomato with cheese you will be able to see better like superman??!! Put it in their terms.

 5) Introduce new foods during snacktime

Kids tend to be more amenable to new things when it isn’t in a formal setting around grown ups. I actually like doing snacktime at say church or school. When all the kids are together, they tend to feed off of one another. If one tries the food and likes it, the others are more likely to want to try it too.

The following are a few ideas for fun kid friendly snack foods. Remember to focus on color, texture and above all let your kids help you make them. These recipes are kid tested and mom approved. As a bonus, they are also gluten free. Win win!!!

Untitled4What better way to get your kids to eat something than to tie it in with a Dr. Seuss story. We all love Dr. Seuss, and Green Eggs and Ham is the perfect story to tell to picky eaters. Read the book and then make the recipe! You can make up a batch and they will keep for approximately 3 days. I bet your kids will like them here or there. In fact, I bet they will like them anywhere!!

Yields: 12 Servings

12 large eggs (I use cage free, organic eggs from a local farm)

1 avocado

1 cup fresh green herbs (basil, parsley and chives are a good combo)

2 garlic cloves

4 tbl greek yogurt

2 tbl dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tbl lemon juice

1 tsp worcestershire sauce

2 tbl Hellman’s mayonnaise

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Place the eggs in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain hot water and cover with cold water. Allow to cool completely. (You can hard boil the eggs and refrigerate them overnight prior to making these to save time). Peel the eggs and slice in half vertically. Remove the egg yolks and place in a food processor with the avocado, herbs, garlic, yogurt, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice, worcestershire and mayo. Puree until smooth and creamy. Fill each of the egg white halves with approx. 2 tsps avocado mixture. Top with crumbled bacon and serve.

**If you have leftover filling, save this as a spread for sandwiches. You get the protein from the egg and the greek yogurt, the good fats from the avocado and the delicious flavor of the herbs!!!


The history of these little nuggets of joy is interesting. I won’t go into too much detail here but I highly recommend Googling it. You might be amused. I love them because they are naturally sweetened and because they are great pick me ups in the middle of the day. They are also loaded with fiber. Kids like them because they taste like candy and are the perfect size for little hands.

Yields: Approximately 20

1 cup pitted dates

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup walnuts

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbl orange blossom water (you can find this at any Mediterranean market or online at www.zamourispices.com)

1 tbl orange juice

1/2 cup almond meal or flax seed meal

 Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Using a small ice cream scooper, measure out into approx. 20 equal size balls. Toss each ball into the almond or flaxseed meal to coat evenly. Place onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. These will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Kids love to eat veggies with ranch dressing. Rather than ruining the healthy veggies with store bought ranch dressing that doesn’t have any nutritional value, make them a batch of this delicious hummus. Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber and the addition of the sun dried tomatoes gives the dip a hint of sweetness that makes this version particularly appealing to kids. As a bonus, tomatoes are high in lycopene which is great for your eyes. Great dipping veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber slices, bell pepper slices and snap peas which have great crunch. For a cracker that you can feel good about serving your kids, try out Nut Thins. They come in numerous flavors, are gluten free and have a wonderful snap to them.

Yields: Approximately 8 Servings (Although I would eat the whole thing myself)

2 cans low sodium chickpeas

1/4 cup tahini paste

2 tbl lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

5-6 sun dried tomatoes

Drain the chickpeas and place in a bowl. Cover with cold water and allow them to soak for approximately an hour. Now is when little fingers come in handy so grab your little ones for this part. I like to peel my chickpeas. I can hear you saying “Are you nuts?!!!!” Well, actually, no. I peel them because it does two great things. #1 is to make the hummus creamier. Remember that texture thing we talked about?? Eliminating the peels will give the hummus a much nicer texture for the little ones that they will enjoy much more. #2, digestibility. Some of us have, how shall we put it, adverse effects from consuming beans. While you cannot avoid this entirely, removing some of the fiber and roughage from the chickpea will help a little. Once the chickpeas are peeled, place all the ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth. The hummus will keep for up to a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

1926070_10201429384207871_1933980496_oMonika Sudakov is the Chef/Owner of the Chestnut Street Inn, an award winning culinary focused bed and breakfast in Sheffield, IL. She is a Certified Culinary Professional with the IACP and has a Master’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis in Food and Culture. You can contact her at monikaandjeff@chestnut-inn.com, visit her website at www.chestnut-inn.com, or give her a like on Facebook.