Rainbow Rice and Cheese on Trees: All the Ways I've Renamed Dishes So My Kids Will Actually Eat Them

Rainbow Rice and Cheese on Trees: All the Ways I've Renamed Dishes So My Kids Will Actually Eat Them

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Meghan Splawn
Sep 26, 2016
(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: A simple trick for getting our children to eat better is marketing. Chickpea nuggets just sounds friendlier to a 5-year-old than falafel ever will.

Over the last few years I've had fun retitling classic dishes as, much to delight, my children increase their appetites for new foods. Here are some of my favorite nicknames for dishes renamed for tiny eaters.

Cheese on Trees

When you've already said "It's broccoli; you love broccoli!" a hundred times, you get creative (also known as desperate) and dub broccoli in any form "trees."

"Cheese on trees" get bonus points for rhyming and including everything from steamed broccoli in cheese sauce to roasted broccoli with grated parmesan.

Everything on trees: 10 Simple Ways to Upgrade Roasted Broccoli

Vegetable "Fries"

Pretty much any vegetable that resembles the shape of a french fry becomes some kind of french fry in our house. Roasted green beans? "Green bean fries." Jicama sliced into sticks are now "fresh fries." Roasted sweet potatoes rounds also pass as fries for our kids.

Ella's Pickles

My daughter has alway been a bit of a pickle-fiend (an anomaly among children, I know), but shied away from cucumbers. In an attempt correlate the two, I had her help me make a batch of quick pickles to accompany dinner one night. She devoured them and dubbed them her own creation: Ella's pickles. Now every cucumber, whether pickled or simply sliced and salted, is a batch of Ella's pickles.

Carrie McBride (Managing Editor at Apartment Therapy) shared a similar story with me: "I call [Mark] Bittman's chicken with wine and cream sauce Mom's amazing chicken."

The takeaway here is that personalizing a dish improves its popularity.

Ella's Pickle is based on this recipe: Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumber

Seafood = Ariel Eats

This is a tactic I bet most parent already use — when my kids turn their noses up at something, I try to relate it to something else they love. For example, anything we eat that relates to the sea has become, "Ariel eats it." Dried seaweed, salmon, shrimp, even scallops are things that the Little Mermaid might eat, so my daughter will at least try them. A pleasant side effect is that she now loves salmon for its pink color and "Ariel flavors."

Quick and easy salmon for everyone: How To Cook Salmon in the Oven

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Rainbow Rice

Packing fried rice full of vegetables is an easy way to get produce into just about any picky eater, and renaming fried rice "rainbow rice" is basically my cooking-for-kids masterpiece. They get excited to find the colors in the rice, and even more excited to eat it. I often throw purple cabbage and frozen edamame into the wok for more color — and added nutrition.

Make your own rainbow rice: How To Make Fried Rice

Your turn — have you repackaged nutritious foods with a smart marketing strategy for little eaters? Do share!

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