When I was a kid, Thanksgiving felt overwhelming. My mom cooked for two days straight, I was forced to clean every inch of the house, I made chit-chat with extended family members I barely knew, and the worst part, the food on the table was gross. You can disguise sweet potatoes with marshmallows, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still sweet potatoes.
As a kid, I didn’t like a lot of the dishes at Thanksgiving. Despite the table overflowing with plates of cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and stuffing, on my plate you would find a roll, some turkey, and some corn. I was, like most kids, picky. If you want your kids to behave at the table, feel less overwhelmed by the clamor of events, and eat their food, make some side dishes they will be familiar with.
Related: Thanksgiving Traditions
1) Mac and Cheese
I haven’t met a child yet who didn’t like mac and cheese. Sure, this might be a weekly staple for them already and it doesn’t fit with the other fancy, seasonal side dishes, but at least you know they’ll eat it. If you are set on having a nicer meal, try a baked mac and cheese instead of the normal boxed recipe. Your kids might question why it’s not bright orange, but the cheesy taste will still be there.
With the other fall foods adorning your table, applesauce will fit right in. Canned applesauce works just fine and usually has enough sugar in it for your kids to like it too. Or, you can use apples from an orchard or the store, add some sugar, water, and cinnamon, and you’ve got a tasty batch of homemade applesauce. As long as your kid is eating, it doesn’t matter.
3) Cornbread Muffins
Rolls are a highlighted feature at Thanksgiving for kids—sometimes it’s all they’ll eat. If you want to encourage your child to mix up their diet a little bit, try using cornbread muffins. You don’t have to stop serving rolls, but if you like these muffins enough, they could replace them. Cornbread has a different taste than kids might be used to, but with some butter and honey, there’s no doubt your kids will gobble them up.
4) Cheesy Potatoes
Mashed potatoes aren’t for everyone. To kids, they look bland and taste that way too. Even if they are smothered in gravy, there is no guarantee that your kids will even touch them. However, adding cheese the mix can change the game. Cheese not only adds flavor to potatoes, but it also adds color which can encourage kids to try it.
5) Iceberg-Lettuce Salad
Getting kids to eat the sweet potatoes, green beans, or other festive vegetables served on Thanksgiving can be near impossible. Don’t try to force your kids to eat their veggies when they’ve never seen them before. A simple iceberg-lettuce salad with some ranch dressing is both familiar and tasty. Or, if that doesn’t work, try carrots—cooked or raw.
Thanksgiving, though overwhelming, is the perfect holiday to teach your kids about new foods and about socializing politely. These skills can also be introduced in daycare like http://loloschildcare.com/. Kids at daycare eat from a prepared menu and play with kids they don’t know—it’s a great tool to prepare kids to talk with others and to slowly rid them of their pickiness. Who knows, maybe this year, your kids will eat the sweet potatoes.