Feasting with Their Eyes: Food Packaging and Presentation for Kids

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.)

Marshmallows – great for s’mores, making chocolate pudding, hot chocolate, or coat them in chocolate.

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 Spooma 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 Popsiclesperfect 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.

Monday May 2nd    Diane from  The WHOLE Gang sharing Easy Gluten Free Grocery Shopping Tips

Tuesday May 3rd  Iris from The Daily Dietribe sharing on How to Start a Gluten Free Diet.

Wednesday May 4th  Heather from Gluten-Free Cat sharing Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies

Thursday May 5th  Alta from Tasty Eats at Home sharing Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Friday May 6th  Elana from Elana’s Pantry sharing Quick and Easy Gluten Free Cherry Vanilla Power Bars

Saturday May 7th  Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness sharing Easy Meals GF Style

Sunday May 8th  Megan from Food Sensitivity Journal sharing Gluten Free Baking Undone:  Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Monday May 9th  Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free sharing Magic Cookie Power Bars.

Tuesday May 10th  Ricki from Diet, Dessert and Dogs sharing Gluten Free Baking Tips

Wednesday May 11th      Ellen from Gluten-Free Diva sharing Gluten Free Travel Tips

Thursday May 12th     Kim from Cook It Allergy Free sharing Eating from your Garden for Easy Gluten-Free Living

Friday May 13th     Melissa from Gluten Free For Good sharing Gluten-Free Food Rules (recipes included)

Saturday May 14th  Brittany from Real Sustenance sharing Healthy Allergy-Free Quick Bread with easy flavor variations.

Sunday May 15th  Nicola from g-free Mom sharing Kids Lunch Boxes

Monday May 16th     Wendy from Celiacs in the House sharing Fast Food for Gluten Free Teens

Tuesday May 17th     Shirley from gluten free easily sharing Your Pantry is the Key to Living gfe

Wednesday May 18th     Nancy from  The Sensitive Pantry sharing Tips for BBQ and Picnics

Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods

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

Monday May 23rd     Tia from Glugle Gluten-Free sharing The Value of Support

Tuesday May 24th    Alisa from Alisa Cooks and Go Dairy Free sharing Wrap it Up-Thinking Outside the Bun

Wednesday May 25th  Hallie from Daily Bites sharing Cooking by Color

Thursday May 26th     Carol from Simply…Gluten-Free sharing tips on Entertaining

Friday May 27th   AndreAnna from Life as a Plate sharing Tips on Traveling on Day Trips with Kids

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!

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20 thoughts on “Feasting with Their Eyes: Food Packaging and Presentation for Kids

  1. Shirley @ gfe

    Really great post, Zoe! I don’t think any of us can resist lovingly packaged and presented food. It makes us all feel special and I guess like a kid again when it comes to treats like cupcakes, popsicles, and French Fries. The packaging and presentation continues at fine restaurants for adults, too. It just has a slightly different look, but still makes us feel special and makes our food more appealing. :-)

    I keep buying oranges and tangelos to make your lovely citrus cake and then using them for another recipe, mostly smoothies. LOL Eventually it will happen though … I will make your recipe and report back!

    xo,
    Shirley

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi Shirley, thanks! Confession: I frequently gush over prettily packaged food. ;) Presenting or plating food nicely can be a learning curve but even if it’s just for yourself, it does make you feel good because it shows you care. It’s the same as taking care of your appearance and grooming.

      Looking forward to hearing your results with the cake! Myself, I generally don’t get as lucky to have citrus end up in other recipes. We tend to eat them up!

      Reply
  2. Ricki

    Fabulous post! I love the photos–those colorful packages would entice anyone, kid or not. :) I fell in love with red bean past when we did an SOS Challenge on adzuki beans–I HAVE to try those pancakes!! I’ve made the paste with adzukis, but using red kidney beans sounds so much easier, to be honest. Thanks for the recipe link. :)

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Thanks, Ricki! Yes, I agree with you and Shirley on that one: anyone will fall for pretty packaging, food or not. :) The pancakes are great because they’re made with almond flour (that was before I started to bake with gluten-free grains) and they really compliment the bean filling. Now I’ve talked myself into wanting some!

      Reply
  3. Maggie

    Great pics Zoe! Everything looks so enticing. I am craving cookies now :) I love your tips, I need to try this more often! My kids and I LOVE buying cupcake holders. They’re so fun and so photogenic!

    Reply
  4. Red Foodie

    Nice and appealing photos! ” With children, it’s important that their food is made to look appealing because, like everyone else, they feast with their eyes first.”

    It is very true. The taste and nutritional value should be seconded by good packaging. Children will be attracted by colorful food packaging first, then the taste. But the taste and the nutritional value is more important to consider.

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Hi Red Foodie, thanks for commenting! You have a point about taste and nutritional value being more important, although for children – especially young ones, i.e. pre-school age – have to be educated on those matters in regards to nutrition and they will be more interested in the food’s appearance and packaging than nutritional value. It’s up to the child’s parents or older siblings, etc., to make those decisions until the child is old enough and knowledgeable to make their own decisions about their nutrition. How more often than not will an average child go for the brightly coloured candy or cookie over something more nutritionally substantial such as scrambled eggs or vegetable sticks, if given the choice or the option?

      Taste is also an important factor, I agree, and one that the child will generally decide for himself whether the food is packaged or not and whether that food is substantially nutritious or not.

      I agree with you that taste and nutrition are important to consider, although I think that both aren’t necessarily more important than the packaging or that nutrition is more important than taste and vise versa – rather, I think that making something that tastes good and appeals to the child’s taste buds, is nutritious, and presented lovingly should all go hand in hand.

      Reply
  5. glutenfreeforgood

    Wow, that was an impressive bunch of photos! Love all the fun “accessories” you have (napkins, cupcake liners, etc.). You’re right, all those colors and patterns make eating more festive. I love it!
    Melissa

    Reply
    1. Zoe Post author

      Thanks, Wendy! You’re absolutely right on that one – as much as we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, we still do and food is no different. It’s the whole mind and body thing: if it looks good, it must taste good. (Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule including food that doesn’t look very good yet actually has amazing flavour but younger kids don’t really care about that in my experience. ;))

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies | Gluten-Free Cat

  7. Pingback: 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living: Make Your Own Convenience Foods | Tasty Eats At Home

  8. Pingback: Glugle Gluten Free | Do You Want Easy Gluten-Free Living? You Need Support!

  9. Pingback: Healthy Lunchbox Guest Post- Shirley Braden @ GFE–Gluten Free Easily

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