Confession time: when I’m in need of some comfort food, my go-to dinner is something with chips and beans. Sausage, chips and beans. Chicken, chips and beans. Fish, chips and beans.
There’s something about chips and beans that makes me happy – is it a nostalgic thing, with it bringing memories of my childhood flooding back, or is it just the sheer joy of eating a soggy-with-bean-juice chip? Who knows, but I love it.
Of course, it’s a once-in-a-while thing. As a parent, an important part of our job is providing nutritious, balanced meals for our kiddos. Encouraging children to eat a variety of food isn’t always easy though. My daughter is a pretty fussy eater. She turns her nose up at anything with a sauce, loads of vegetables and anything spicy. It’s so tempting to do the whole “You’re not getting pudding until you’ve cleared your plate” thing, but we know that’s not the best way to encourage little ones to eat.
But what is the best way? Three tricks I’ve recently picked up – that seem to really work – are:
- Planning meals and including your child(ren) in the planning. We all know that kids like to know what’s happening, right? Most of them don’t like it when we spring things on them, so making a meal plan for the week, picking some things that are your favourite, some things that are your child’s favourite, means there are no surprises. One friend of mine writes her meal plan on a big blackboard in the kitchen, so that her daughter can see what’s for tea each day, and doesn’t even need to ask. Clever!
- Rewards and positive encouragement! I’ve currently got a vegetable reward chart on the go in our house – the six-year-old has to try a different vegetable every day, and if she manages it, she gets a reward at the end of each week. It’s having mixed results (broccoli = YUM, cabbage = YUCK) but the important thing is that there’s no negative pressure and it’s encouraging her to try different vegetables.
- Simply telling your child they don’t have to eat their meal. Removing the power battle at meal times, and saying in a calm way “You don’t have to eat that”, when your child protests, is a game changer. Your child is 100% in control of whether they eat some or all of the meal, and there’s no bribery or stern “Eat your dinner please” from you. You can enjoy your meal, and you might be surprised by how many different foods your child will eat when the pressure is off.
I’m all about quick and easy family dinners – I WISH I was one of those people who loves spending hours in the kitchen, baking and cooking, but I’m not. I don’t have the attention to detail or the patience for it. And despite being a total foodie, I’d much rather someone else cook for me, thank you very much.
So quick and easy is the way for me and Birds Eye is one of my fast family dinner saviours. And I don’t mean just on the comfort food chips and beans days – loads of the Birds Eye frozen range can be used in a nutritionally balanced meal and goes great with salads and veg, especially now that the weather has (finally) warmed up and summery dinners are on the menu.
One of my favourite quick family meals is posh crispy chicken burgers. The great thing about Birds Eye frozen chicken products is that they’re all made with 100% chicken breast which is packed with protein, and all Birds Eye chickens are barn reared.
Posh crispy chicken burgers
4 Birds Eye Crispy Chicken
4 brioche buns
4 tbsp mayonnaise
Zest from 1 lemon, juice from ½ lemon
2 little gem lettuce
Time: 20 minutes
- Cook the Birds Eye Crispy Chicken as per the packet instructions
- Mix the lemon zest and juice with mayonnaise
- Lightly grill/toast the brioche buns
- Slice the avocado in half and then slice each halve width-ways into chunky strips
- When the chicken is cooked, slice width-ways into chunky strips
- Assemble by alternating a slice of chicken with a slice of avocado on the bottom half of the bun
- Dollop some lemon mayonnaise on top, then a little gem lettuce leaf before adding the top of the bun
Serve with corn on the cob, a wholegrain rice salad and a tomato salad for a nutritious family meal!
Now, if I’m honest, when I served this up to my family, the six-year-old ate the crispy chicken (she loved it), the lettuce, the brioche bun and the rice and pepper salad, but in the spirit of my fussy eating tips, she knew that she didn’t have to eat everything that had been served up, and Mr P and I got to enjoy a really yummy summery dinner with no stress or tension. You guys! I think we have cracked the fussy eating thing! (Do you have any other tips? Share with me, please!)