Charcuterie board for kids

Meal-time hacks for selective eaters.

Feeding people delicious food has always brought me joy. I have fond childhood memories of baking with my grandmother and feeling so grown up when my mom would let me slice the cucumber with a sharp knife. I couldn’t wait to make these memories with my own kids someday. Well, that day has come, and it’s not nearly as magical as I imagined. I am a mom of three, ages eight, five, and three. I am also a farmwife and have a full-time career of my own. Feeding my family is no easy task between work, sports activities, church clubs, and a changing-with-the-seasons farm schedule.

To make things more challenging, we have a wide array of likes, dislikes, and dietary restrictions in my home. One kid is lactose intolerant. Another kid has severe egg, peanut, and tree nut allergies. My third is just plain picky. It feels impossible to make just one meal that everyone will eat! So, what’s my secret? JUST DO LESS.

Here are some examples of how I “do less” at mealtime in my house:

1. The “deconstructed sandwich”

I can make almost any meal—a casserole, a pasta dish, a sandwich—and my kids will take it all apart to get to the pieces they want that day. Rather than plating my kids’ meals for them before sitting down at the table, I started calling them into the kitchen early to help decide what goes on their plates. Maybe they want the meat sauce on the side of their spaghetti that night. Fine. Maybe they want their bread separate from their ham and cheese. Cool. They like the chance to decide, and I like throwing away less food.

2. Kiddie Charcuterie

If adults can make a meal out of a charcuterie board, why can’t kids? I’ll cut up string cheese sticks, and further slice pre-sliced cheese and— “arrange” is a strong word—THROW the ingredients on a cutting board with a pile of deli meat and whatever crackers, goldfish, grapes, baby carrots or pickles I have in stock and let my kids graze for a meal. This is great on nights that my husband and I are enjoying something more sophisticated.

3. It’s not what you eat, it’s where you eat. 

Typically, we all sit down to dinner at the kitchen table, but sometimes we all need a break. Kiddie Charcuterie night is typically enjoyed on “the picnic blanket” in the living room. Everyone gets excited when they see that designated blanket lying on the living room floor and the more relaxed dining experience leads to cleaner plates. As a farm family, we also eat a lot of “meals on wheels” in the spring and fall. The kids like having their own sack dinner to eat in the truck or tractor when delivering our farmers supper in the field. I have no clue how much food is actually consumed here, but fresh air tires them out, and that is all I care about at the end of the night anyway. 

4. Bars. 

baked potato bar

A spin-off of the “deconstructed sandwich,” we have a lot of “bars” at our house. Salad bar, taco bar, baked potato bar, ice cream bar … with so many food sensitivities in our family, sometimes it’s just easier to line toppings up and let everyone make their own. The kid that likes broccoli can eat it by itself, while the kid that doesn’t like broccoli can cut it up small and hide it inside a baked potato slathered with cheese and sour cream. This is the best option when we have extended family gatherings. 

Less really can be more when it comes to feeding selective eaters. If only the same could be said for the number of dishes dirtied in serving these meals! 

Ashley and Greg Deal

About Ashley and Greg

Ashley Deal and her husband, Greg, live near Bloomington, Illinois, on a multi-generational family farm where they raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, black angus cattle, and three young kids. While Greg runs the farm, Ashley works full time for IL Corn where her primary responsibilities involve connecting farmer members to their elected officials to discuss legislative issues impacting their farm. Like many agriculture professionals, the line between livelihood and lifestyle is a thin one. Ashley appreciates the occasional rainy day when the family can spend time all together eating a home cooked meal at the table, playing ball in the yard, or the rare night out with her farmer.

Learn More