Snack Board Suppers: My Trick For Better Dinners With Little Ones
Words Ashlee Galyean
Before I became a mom I think I really believed that my kids would be open minded, cultural, adventurous, healthy little foodies. I had visions of them raving about my kale chicken salad. Sigh. I was so naïve. Nowadays the only way I get any vegetables in my darlings is by sneaking spinach in their morning smoothies. And they only drink those about 2/3 of the time.
Even worse is that sometimes they just don’t want to eat food in general and dinner time can be exhausting. Phrases like “No you can’t leave the table until you finish that highly processed, breaded chicken thing” seem to fly out of my mouth of their own accord. Just why exactly do I want them to eat those chicken nuggets? Mostly because I want their stomachs full enough to be sure that they will sleep through the night. Once upon a time I was something of a nutritionist…but after two kids within two years I think I’ve inched toward some kind of a utilitarian. And a mess. I’m a utilitarian mess.
But I have found a godsend. A dinner trick that relieves my stress AND gets my kids to eat. It’s called a Snack Board Supper and I first heard about it from Kelsey Nixon (who is also a godsend when it comes to dinner ideas).
It’s About the Choice
It can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. It can be as healthy or unhealthy as you choose to make it. It can be as pretty or as heinously ugly as you choose to make it. The magic of it is in, you guessed it, the CHOICE. And not just for me and the prep work. It’s that it gives my kids choices. And when they have choices, for some reason they eat. I guess autonomy is a thing.
What really puts things over the top is that they get to serve themselves. It seems weird, right? Being able to pick the food off the tray matters? But when you’re a parent of small children, you realize they have opinions about the strangest things (my kids, for instance, always want their bananas “like a monkey”). So if they can pick it off the board themselves, well, you’ve won this food battle hands down. You’re the cool parent. All the gold stars to you. Seriously my kids think I am SO FUN when we do this.
Keep it Simple
I usually keep the fare simple. This time I did a pretty typical snack board for us but my kids were still delighted. Cheese, dried cranberries, and the pretzels Agnes has been begging me to buy for at least a week all worked like a charm to excite them. I also included fresh berries and peaches, a little turkey lunch meat, a few different varieties of crackers (including some gluten free ones because #health), spinach artichoke dip, homemade ranch dip, and a few veggies because, hey, a mom can dream. I buy a few pre-made items to keep it as low-stress as possible but you can do this with just about anything you have lying around the kitchen.
The Right Vehicle
Once they pick their own food, the OXO Tot Stick & Stay Suction Plate is our best friend. They love to sort their food in the different sections (because, as my husband says, children are separatists when it comes to food) and I love that it goes on a plate that doesn’t come off the table. And while I’d prefer Sebastian eat over a giant tarp completely naked, I suppose I should teach him to eat like a normal human. Thank goodness for suction technology so eating in the nude doesn’t become habitual for my kid.
And thank goodness for snack boards, saving my sanity one dinner at a time.