It’s true: putting some effort into making your food look nice and pretty not only makes you appreciate it more but also more appetizing and, if you have kids or if you’re an older sibling and help with your younger siblings’ meals and snacks or work with young children generally, more likely that they will eat it, too.
Not only will they eat it but, as I said, they’ll appreciate their food more and appreciate the effort gone into presenting it.
As part of Diane Eblin’s 30 Days to Easy Gluten Free Living, I’m sharing tips about food presentation and packaging for children, particularly those who are youngsters and pre-teens but it can easily extend to teenagers as well. I’m not a parent (yet) but as the eldest of four siblings, I have helped my parents a lot with my siblings and still do on a regular, daily basis as part of being a family.
With children, it’s important that their food is made to look appealing because, like everyone else, they feast with their eyes first.
When my family changed our diet to help my brother recover from autism, we worked hard to figure out treats and snacks for him that he would eat. I don’t know how many hours, though, that my Mum and I spent figuring out how to present my brother’s food in an enticing way so that he would eat, as he was a very picky eater back then. (Sometimes we’d have to coax him.)
Making food pretty, whether it’s nicely arranging it on the plate or a pretty cupcake liner or packaging, makes the food special, it makes it enticing, it makes it a little bit more fun, and it also makes kids who are eating it feel special. They’ll appreciate that extra effort you made for them and you will, too. It’s like wrapping presents for someone’s birthday or for Christmas.
You don’t have to go all out and clutter up your living space with trinkets in order to make the food look good and inviting, as kids will generally go for the simple over extravagant and, again, they will appreciate it. (Just as an example, my aunt once told me a story about some little kids at a restaurant. Their parents had packed all their technology but their kids practically ignored it as they played and made figures with wax sticks left at the table by the staff.)
While generic cupcake liners are great, also stock up on liners with cute designs or buy them for special occasions. Arts and crafts stores, like Michael’s, are great for finding cute designs and other fun ideas…
like these ice cream cone wrappers. Instead of using them for ice cream cones, you could also fill them with candy or some other small treat.
Candy molds are also great for fancier presentations such as for chocolate, for example. Who wouldn’t love to eat a bowl of ice cream with a bowl made out of chocolate? (I’ll be posting a recipe for that next week.) They can be easily found at craft stores and are inexpensive.
Even simple snacks or components of a main meal like French fries can be dressed up by presenting in paper cups (these ones pictured above were leftover from my brother’s birthday). For additional flair, tuck in a napkin or stick it in before filling the cup with the goodies.
For packed lunches, containers with multiple compartments such as bento boxes such as what you see on those cute bento blogs (like this one, for example) are fun for packing snacks or even components of a simple meal for assembling. As my brother became more independent and able to do things himself, he liked to have sandwich components packed and he would make the sandwich himself. He especially liked making mini sandwiches with these mini loaves of bread.
If your children eat packaged food, like Larabars or potato chips, packing a small bag or a bar or two is also appreciated. For a while, my brother liked to have Sun Rype apple juice boxes or Happy Planet orange juice and smoothies packed whenever we made a packed lunch or snacks for him. While there is an increasing emphasis on homemade, children still like to have at least one or two packaged snack foods or drinks because it makes them feel like everyone else, if they’re constantly having people eat pre-packaged food around them.
When you set the table, adding that extra effort like using napkins with a decorative design than just plain napkins, your child’s favourite dish or glass, etc., gives it a special touch and makes it feel inviting.
While this post is mainly about packaging and presentations, here are also some snack and treat ideas for your little ones. (For more ideas, check out the recipe index.)
Sesame snaps – just like the commercial variety but much healthier!
Chocolate chip cookies – these ones are made with peanut butter or almond butter and sweetened with honey.
Peach Melba Spoom – a kind of frothy sorbet, this one is made with the two key components of the classic dessert with peaches and raspberries.
Honey Cookies – these satisfying cookies are grain-free and only use 3 ingredients.
Mango Banana Popsicles – perfect for those with tropical tastes, these are cool and refreshing in the summertime. Popsicles are flexible, so try other flavours as well!
Dorayaki - a Japanese confection, pancakes are sandwiched with a red bean paste traditionally made with adzuki beans, which are high in iron, although I’ve also made this with red kidney beans. A snack and lunch favourite of my brother’s.
Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake - if you don’t like grapefruit, you can use a different citrus. My brother loves this cake as a snack!
Those are just some ideas to get you started. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.
Here’s the full schedule of all the bloggers participating in this fabulous event. Do check out their tips, they’re all great and come from experience.
Friday May 6th Elana from Elana’s Pantry sharing Quick and Easy Gluten Free Cherry Vanilla Power Bars
Sunday May 8th Megan from Food Sensitivity Journal sharing Gluten Free Baking Undone: Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Thursday May 12th Kim from Cook It Allergy Free sharing Eating from your Garden for Easy Gluten-Free Living
Saturday May 14th Brittany from Real Sustenance sharing Healthy Allergy-Free Quick Bread with easy flavor variations.
Friday May 20th Silvana from Silvana’s Kitchen sharing Everything I’ve Learned So Far about Gluten-Free plus my Dairy-Free Nutella Knockoff recipe!
Saturday May 21st Maggie from She Let Them Eat Cake sharing Easy Gluten-Free Living With Preschoolers and a Vanilla Cupcake recipe!
Sunday May 22nd Sea from Book of Yum sharing Easy Gluten Free Vegetarian Soy Free Breakfast Burritos
Saturday May 28th Zoe from Z’s Cup of Tea sharing Feasting with Their Eyes: Food Packaging and Presentation for Kids
Sunday May 29th Kelly from The Spunky Coconut sharing Buying in bulk to save money, Cooking in bulk to save time.
Monday May 30th Jess from ATX Gluten-Free sharing 1 Meal 3 Ways, Jazzing up Leftovers
Tuesday May 31st Naomi from Straight into Bed, Cakefree and Dried sharing how to prepare grains so they are more nutritious & digestible and create fluffier wholegrain baked goods!