I love constructing our meals at the table. Getting into the habit of serving every meal from the middle of the table has been a game changer for me (AND I know I’m not alone). As Jo from emotionally aware feeding explains in her post here – it’s not an easy adjustment to consciously change the way we serve meals. When you are new to it you quickly realise that it is much easier to say than to do every.single.day. This is why I do it every.single.day. I want to practice what I preach. And I know it has been the single most effective strategy in keeping my cool at the dinner table. Every day is hard. Yet, studies are showing that it only takes 3 family meals a week to make progress on developing healthy relationships with food (ANY meal occasion will do – brekky, lunch, afternoon tea and not just dinner). So, the best place to start family style serving is with one meal. Then another. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

So, what is family style serving?

In feeding therapy terms, serving from the middle of the table is known as “Family Style Serving”. It’s one of the most effective ways to avoid sensory overwhelm for your kids and help families stick to their mealtime responsibilities and develop longer term life skills associated with eating well. Mealtime responsibility is about avoiding conflict at mealtimes by everyone having their defined roles. Children over the age of 2 are responsible for the whether and how much of foods provided that parents stick to the “what”, “when” and “where” of meals. Studies into mealtime responsibilities have been conducted by many researchers and an evidence based term “Division of Responsibility” (DoR) by Ellyn Satter is one of the most commonly referred to models.

Some of my previous recipes that are designed to help with maintaining mealtime responsibilities include this recipe for healthier chicken parmigiana, creamy corn and bacon soup and this one full of ideas for fun skewers. I also go into the logistics of implementing DoR when you have children at different ages namely, an infant and fussy toddler in this post.

So, what is a buddah bowl?

This buddah bowl recipe is a great example of a family style serving. I made a few elements and put them in the middle of the table for the kids to choose from and create their own buddah bowls. I explained before we got started with the meal that we would be having buddah bowls for dinner. This immediately appealed to their curious little minds. I explained that a buddah bowl was using a little bowl to pile it high and make the top round like a cute little belly. The girls cracked up laughing and immediately starting working out what vegetable was going to be their belly button on their bowl? Maybe they took the name a bit too far?

I found this video really handy to show how versatile the buddah bowl idea can be – AND Meg shows you how to prep it as a make-ahead meal for when you need to change up your “where” of meals and still involve the kids in preparing it in advance. Note: this method would not be as great for kids that don’t like the overwhelm of mixed textures. So, I would probably recommend you try these combos at home first for picky eaters. At first, they may just have the noodles, rice, quinoa, millet or other carbohydrate base that you use. And that’s OK. The first step is getting picky kids to tolerate being able to serve themselves meals near foods that are more “tricky” for them. The more exposure they get, the more likely they will be to have a smell, lick or even select the food for their bowl.

So, what did we put in our buddah bowls?

I used a hand spiraliser to make sweet potato noodles. I blanched broccoli florets in a pot of boiling water. Once, I removed the broccoli into it’s serving bowl, I boiled the soba noodles and sweet potato noodles in the same water. Whilst they were boiling, I used the other slinky spiraliser to make a bowl of cucumber slinky pieces. I chopped some coriander (cilantro). And in a little fry pan to the side of the noodles, I made the peanut & ginger sauce.

These were all plonked onto the table with small bowls for the kids to make their own bowls. They went back and refilled with their fave items and Verity (3yo) ended up licking all the sauce straight from the serving dish #classy #whotaughthertoeat.

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Simone Emery presents picky eater information pertaining to making mixed texture meals like a buddah bowl as part of a family style meal | Play with Food by Simone Emery

What would you kids like to choose to make a buddah bowl? Leaving a comment below or sharing my tips helps my blog grow socially and in a way that doesn’t cost you a penny. I am so grateful for your support. 

Links to get the kitchen gadgets into your home

This section of the post contains affiliate links to the Amazon store. I like to use these so you can see what sorts of fun gadgets can make your meals look a bit more exciting for kids and if you do choose to purchase via these links, I hope to one day buy myself a coffee with the commission from your purchase. Note: using an affiliate link to buy from Amazon doesn’t cost you any extra. Note: I could not find a pic of my cucumber slinky maker – I received it as a gift a few years ago.

Hand-Held Spiralisers / Julienne:

On-the-go containers:


Say “Goodbye Picky Eating” with Simone Emery over the next 16 days. Private consultations available in conjunction with this life-skill changing course.

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