Do you do Taco Tuesday?
If you have a fussy eater on your hands, you may find that family meals with mixed textures, like tacos, feel like a long way off. Or you are having success with a few random mixed texture meals here and there but find it hard to get some consistency around what would constitute a “normal family dinner”. I suppose I like to challenge the notion of what exactly is a “normal family dinner”. Mostly, because I just don’t believe in them. What one family may have as a goal family dinner can be VERY different to what another family may consider ideal. And that is 100% OK! How each child perceives the meal is also very individual. So, being on their team and working out how to chain your way, link by link, towards somewhere that suits YOUR family is also a journey that relates to your story. And your story alone. Whether you like tacos on a Tuesday or not, today’s post is all about giving you ideas for you to pick and choose from to bring some Mexican inspired variety to your mealtimes. Let’s jump into some food chaining using Tacos for inspiration!
Heather provided the inspiration for this week’s blog post as part of my 5 ingredient dinner challenge. (See the full recipe below). Heather is using Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility approach with a family style serving suggestion for this meal. Heather’s kids prefer their refried beans super smooth, sour cream, a cheese sauce (known as queso in the US) and guacamole. These sides are served with tortilla chips. “Everything goes on the table and he gets to make his own plate for dipping”. #hurrah Heather uses the tortilla chips to get some extra nutrition in by sourcing ones with some quinoa, flax and chia seeds in them.
What I love about this meal is that it is easy to envisage how to serve it family style, it doesn’t need an excessive amount of preparation time and it includes 4 food groups. (Or you could push it and say 5 if your guacamole includes tomato and you count tomato as a fruit!) It also opens up lots of scope to make little changes and keep variety at each iteration of serving the meal. Let’s say that nachos go on the menu each week at your house, by switching the refried beans for scrambled eggs you have a new meal on offer. Another week, you can switch queso for grated cheese. Then, you can switch guacamole for smashed avocado. And, you can switch out sour cream for natural yoghurt. Tortilla chips can be swapped with toasted wholemeal pita bread triangles. Just with alternating in one of these switches you can chain in 25 new meal combinations.
More chaining ideas
Nachos is definitely one way to start working towards having a tacos with fussy kids. Yet, chaining your family’s way to a taco night will depend on where you are currently at. If Nachos are still not on the table, you may need to look at what foods you do have on the table as a starting point. For example, if Spaghetti Bolognese is the only mixed texture food your child will try, it is a good starting point to start chaining toward tacos by offering some taco shells alongside some Bolognese mince, pasta and salad vegetables. Another step, may be to add some ground cumin to your usual Bolognese sauce with full disclosure that the mince has a new flavour added to it to match the taco shells more. Yet, you may need to keep offering variety in the grain department first to get a variety of accepted foods across the line before changing the flavour of the mince. Particularly, if you are nervous about your child dropping Bolognese mince from their repertoire.
Sometimes, what WE perceive as a small change to a border-line accepted food turns out to be a HUGE change for children. Unfortunately, the result can be a full drop-off of that food. So, getting accustomed to variety in other food groups where the “steaks” are lower may be your first step. Here are a variety of grains you could offer a small portion in a bowl in the middle of the table with a preferred mixed texture before you change the “touchy” component of the accepted mixed texture. To continue with my example, all of these can go with Bolognese mince for a family meal:
- Aged Cheddar and Cauliflower Chips that I reviewed for Mealtime Building Blocks
- Toasted triangles of wholemeal pita bread
- Sweet Potato crackers
- Tortilla strips
- Taco Shells
- Burrito Wraps
And then you can start to serve some other taco fixings from the middle of the table like:
- halved cherry tomatoes / diced tomato
- grated cheese
- sour cream
- refried beans
- iceberg lettuce
- grilled corn on the cob
- coriander (cilantro)
What if they still don’t eat it?
Your job is to offer food. If they aren’t eating ANYTHING and there is some foods that they usually eat on the table, have a look back through this post on what to do. (AKA Stop, enact your reset strategy and start again.) It can be so frustrating, but remembering the 7 key questions to ask yourself, will help you keep your cool in the heat of the moment. Reflect on how big the step / change is that was made to the meal and how it would feel for your child. Were they given the heads up? Were they feeling in charge of their mealtime responsibilities? My post on why food anxious kids need to sweat the small stuff may help reframe this concept too. Also this article I wrote on helping sensory kids with the inputs from new foods will help give you some more strategies to ponder too. Yet, with these tools in your toolkit, it is still hard when they don’t eat a new meal that you work hard on. So, before making big sweeping changes, be kind to yourself and set your family up for success by working on your small steps first. Try to come up with ideas that won’t exhaust you. Generally speaking meal preparation that uses up an excess* amount of time, money or effort will result in you feeling over invested in its success. Once you feel over invested, it is harder for you to trust your child to perform their responsibility at the meal. A parent provides (what, when and where) and a child decides (whether and how much.)
*Everyone has their own comfort level around food effort and only you will know where this line is for you.
- Tortilla Chips
- Refried Beans
- Cheese Sauce
- Sour Cream
- Heat the refried beans and cheese sauce as per the directions on the pack.
- Place all of the nacho ingredients onto a serving platter or in bowls on the middle of the table. Everyone constructs their own combination of flavours.
You may also like to consider baking your tacos! This tip is for the kids (and adults) that hate it when the fillings fall out of tacos. And it is also a good way to try something different at your next Taco Tuesday. Other South American style meals on this blog include a Central American Style Shredded Chicken (that includes CHOCOLATE), Mexican Style Chicken Soup , Brazilian Style Beef Rolls and Peruvian Lomo Saltado.
If you need any assistance working towards family meals with mixed textures, work with me to say Goodbye Picky Eating!
What family meal would you love to see at your family table? What first step are you going to take?