Tips for Turkey Day

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Last year, my kids ate the most delicious Thanksgiving meal of rolls. That’s right, my kids ate bread. That’s flour, water, and salt.

In fact, they may have been the only two people in America who complained they were hungry at 8:00 PM when we loaded them in the car to go home.

Whether you have a picky eater or a plain old normal toddler, holidays that revolve around food just aren’t that important to kids. Combine that with a table of unfamiliar food, and it can mean that most kids simply refuse to eat what’s there.

After the Thanksgiving fiasco, which may have ended with us driving through a Wendy’s (Shhh!), I did things differently at Christmas. Here’s what worked for us:

Serve something you know they like. It sounds obvious, but many traditional holiday foods, like cranberry sauce or green bean casserole, only appear once or twice a year. If you’re the host or a guest, make or bring a dish you know your kids have seen before: turkey and rice soup, a side of mashed potatoes, a fruit salad—whatever.

Familiarize them with new foods. Rather than placing turkey on their plate, slice it up and put it on a roll to make a sandwich. Or when you’re reading a book about the holidays, point out pictures of the food and ask: “Do you think we’ll have that on Thanksgiving?”

Try the muffin tin trick. Since kids learn and explore through play, food that looks like a game will be way more appealing. At the kids table, place all the different elements of the meal individually in a muffin tin, and let kids use teaspoons to serve themselves or eat right from the tin.

Have them help. When kids take part in the cooking process, they are more likely to eat what they make (you should see the kids in our mommy and me classes chowing down on raw veggies!). They also take lots of pride in their work especially when grandma tells them the sweet potatoes they helped make are the best she’s ever had.

Feed them before you go. Unlike adults who want to save room for all the good stuff, kids plus an empty stomach equals a meltdown that’s waiting to happen. Feed them a normal meal before a party so they’re not starving and cranky.

Serve everything with ketchup. Because, duh.


Nicole Jurick is a mom of three and owner of the cooking school Peasful Kitchen. Nicole shares healthy recipes, mealtime inspiration, and sane strategies for feeding picky eaters.

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