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Catherine McCord’s Top Tips to Making Dinnertime Weelicious

07/06/2010 at 02:00 PM ET
Courtesy of Weelicious

Picky eaters at home?

It’s a common problem, but one that’s easily solved, according to culinary school grad and Weelicious.com blogger Catherine McCord.

“After I had my son, I just looked at him and thought, ‘What am I supposed to feed you?’ ” McCord tells PEOPLE Moms & Babies. “I had all this training, but needed to apply it.”

McCord started going to her local farmer’s market, educating herself about foods and creating “simple, but exciting baby food,” as she describes it.

Writing about her experiences earned her a following (including celeb fan Jennifer Garner), and soon she found her children (and recipes) blossoming with her audience.

So how to satisfy your kids’ appetites, while pleasing their palates at the same time?

Here are some of McCord’s suggestions:

Take your kids grocery shopping. McCord particularly loves bringing her children to farmer’s markets, where they get to see the fruits and vegetables, sample them and learn where they came from. “Make them pick out a piece of produce, and ask, ‘What are we going to make with this avocado?’ ” she suggests. “Incorporate them into the meal planning. Exposure is one of the most important things we can offer our children.”

Steer clear of processed foods. “Don’t touch the McDonald’s,” she warns. “Make sure at mealtime, your kids are getting a fruit, a vegetable, a carbohydrate and a protein. Make it easy on yourself.” McCord says it’s easy to build off of basic ingredients kids love, like rice and pasta. “Boil some, keep it in the fridge, and each night add a few things you know your family will love.”

Plan ahead. McCord is a big champion of slow-cooker recipes. “My Crock-Pot chicken is the easiest thing in the world,” she shares. “It makes five pounds of chicken, so we eat it plain one night, make quesadillas the next, then mac, cheese and chicken bites the third. The key is to make staples that stretch themselves.”

McCord also suggests using any free weekend time to cook for the coming week. “Make a double batch of something, or freeze it if you can,” she says. “Then pop it in the oven later in the week. It’s such a timesaver.”

Make it fun. “Again, involve them in the process,” she says. “Let them stir, say, the pasta, then they can come back to it later and see what they’ve created. It gives them a sense of empowerment.” She also suggests food in small portions. “Anything in a pancake, muffin or mini form is appealing,” McCord shares. “Too much food is overwhelming.”

For more of McCord’s simple recipes — and some great how-to videos — check out Weelicious.com.

Kate Hogan

Courtesy of Weelicious
Courtesy of Weelicious

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Showing 19 comments

Heather on

I’ve got the opposite problem that most parents have. My son won’t eat rice, and he won’t eat any pasta except spaghetti. He doesn’t care for ground beef, and only recently started eating hamburgers (homemade- he’s 2 and has yet to have a happy meal… and it won’t be happening any time in the immediate future). He likes chicken, but the easiest things to get him to eat are his fruits and veggies. He loves peppers and broccoli, edamame, mushrooms, tomatoes, strawberries, bananas etc. He’ll eat sweets, but if I ask him what he wants for a snack, it’s usually a banana or strawberries he asks for. I’m waiting for the day when he does his 180 and will only eat chicken fingers and fries!

Trisha on

@heather

I have the same problem! My daughter only likes mac n’ cheese, no other pasta, and will only eat hamburger if we put it in her mac n’ cheese. Our pediatrician said she needs to eat more red meat but she wont! Her favorite things are fruits and veggies. She loves strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, and pears. She also loves peas, corn, carrots, lima beans, and peppers. She likes spicy as well, especially pepper jack cheese. I get frustrated anytime I go to make her food because she doesnt like to eat any of the staples. We just started some beef stew and chicken noodle soup and she actually will eat that. I suppose she likes eggs too but its so hard to find healthy foods besides the fruits and veggies that she likes. Any suggestions would be great!!!!

Luna on

My kids always eat whatever I put in front of them, because they know I’m not a short order cook. I always take them grocery shopping (sometimes not all five, but that’s for sanity), they help make dinner, only eat McDonald’s VERY VERY RARELY, and I know each nights dinner. I find that if I know someone has karate, someone else has soccer, and their father has to work late, dinner will be different than if no one has extra curriculars and Dad is home early. That being said, I have children who are at healthy weights, who love fruits and veggies, and will know how to cook for themselves as adults.

Heather on

@ Trisha – Our son is very small for his age; he’s at about the 25th percentile for height and weight, and has been that way from day one. While I don’t want to make him fat, it’d be nice if he would eat some foods that might put a bit of meat on his bones, if you know what I mean! He loves cheese and milk (both chocolate and white), and plain yogurt. He eats only whole wheat bread. I made his baby food for him (and plan on doing it again with our 6 week old when she starts solids), so I definately believe that that gave him a firm footing when it came to trying new foods. I bought Jessica Seinfeld’s book when he was an infant but I haven’t had to use it, because veggies aren’t his problem! We’ve been trying to think of ways to sneak meat into his diet because I’m sure he’s not getting enough protein, and the best way we’ve found to do it is to mix it into his spaghetti sauce.

I’m not sure what to do about the staples myself… lol like I said, he won’t eat rice, and potatoes of any sort are usually a no-no. I guess we just have to keep offering it up until they finally try it? I’m at the point now where if he won’t eat the meal I put in front of him, he gets a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and we try again the next day with the leftovers.

Gianna on

My son and I are vegetarian. He is by no means a picky eater, but I am. I swear by Weelicious. It is an amazing jumping off point. It is so easy to tweak the recipes to cater to your family’s needs. Every day at work I search for dinner from the site. Everything I have had has been more than delicious and I feel good knowing I am giving my son nutritious meals with healthier options. I am thankful for Catherine McCord’s site. It makes meal time a breeze!

Ella on

Heather, Trisha – what is your problem really? Isn’t it excellent that your kids like a lot of veggies and fruits? If they eat enough oats in combination with vitamin c, they do not necessarily need red meat.

Trisha on

@Heather
Lets just hope it gets better and easier with time :) My daughters 16 months so I will just keep trying and see what happens.

@Luna
I’m not saying I’m gonna be a short order cook, but when they are that young you can’t not feed them :)

@ Ella.
I have no problem with the fact that she eats fruits and veggies! I hope she carries it into her adulthood!!! I didn’t mean to sound annoyed, My concern is that she doesn’t eat enough of the carbs and meats that she needs to keep growing, according to her pediatrician. She’s 13% for height and has consistently gone down in weight. I nursed her for 8 months and made her baby food. I know I shouldn’t be complaining about her eating her fruits and veggies, I guess I am just looking for some suggestions that have worked for others!

Heather on

@ Ella – like I said, my son is underweight for his age. It would be awesome if he was an average weight, but it’s hard to get enough calories into him when all he wants is veggies, fruit and chicken. Couple that with an extraordinary amount of energy, and it’s incredibly difficult for him to gain weight.

Heather on

And Trisha – our pediatrician told us to add small amounts of butter (not margarine) to his food (this didn’t fly with me, and we only did it a few times before we gave it up – it wasn’t helping anyways), to only feed him full fat dairy (6% yogurt, full fat cheeses and whole milk), and to feed him Pediasure when he wouldn’t eat. He was tested for cystic fibrosis at around 10 months, and we’ve suspected a case of pyloric stenosis or an underdeveloped esophagus because he threw up so much when he was small. He’s only now starting to catch up and he’s 25 months old. Keep plugging along! I know exactly how frustrating it is.

noam on

heather and trisha: keep asking your pediatrician about this. it may be that your kids just don’t like meat right now, but my niece (who is now thirteen) was very similar to this when she was a toddler. she filled up on fruits and vegetables, but refused to eat meat. it turns out that she’s very allergic to the anti-biotics given to factory animals. she now eats free-range, organic meat from a local farmer (my brother goes to get the meat at the store they have on their property, just to keep an eye on things; organic and free-range do not automatically mean free of anti-bodies…)and is doing fine. she is still on the smaller side for her age, but is otherwise healthy…good luck to you!

Crystal on

Meat isn’t the only source of protein or fat for babies. Plenty of people, including myself, are raising healthy, vegetarian babies. Legumes and tofu are a good source of protein.

I haven’t had to do this myself yet, but what about mixing some tofu in the food? It is suppose to absorb the flavor of whatever they are eating and is a great nutritional value.

Mrs. R on

This post struck a chord with me. I am going to checkout weelicious! I had been tossing around a similar idea for a blog or forum site… but looks like the market is already tied up.

YaYa on

After discovering Weelicious, I was thrilled to get started on making my grandson’s baby food — I followed Catherine’s puree recipes and have a binder full of nutrious recipes. My grandson is approaching one; and I am so excited as ‘we’ introduce more Weelicious recipes to him. Catherine and her site is fabulous — she should have her own show.

Franki on

My daughter is also a die-hard fruits and veggies eater, which is awesome! She will not touch meat. That being said, I looked into alternative ways for her to get the protein she needs. Beans/legumes are a great way to get a lot of protein in, as well as yogurt, almond/soy/rice milk (we don’t drink cows milk). Weelicious has so many recipes tailored to fit vegetarian style diets!

Sascha on

@heather. My son is 3 years old and is 10kg. I have had the exact problem as you have. He will happily go ALL day without eating if it were up to him! He loves his fruit and vegies, but anything that’s gonna make him gain weight ends up on the floor! I’ve tried everything!! Even bribing him with expensive toys, or trips to the zoo….. Still not interested!! There’s been days where I’ve had to give him 4 bottles of pediasure during the night coz all he’s eaten all day is a bowl of strawberries!! Help!!

MiB on

Heather, why won’t you put butter on your son’s food? My cousin puts olive oil on her dauthers food to help with energy and fat and gives her soy milk for proteins. She is a tiny little thing, but so was her mother, her uncles and several other babies in the family (including me). I am not chritisizing you or anything, I am just curious as to why you won’t do it since you are worried about your son’s weight.

JoJo on

What a fabulous picture! Who’s the photog?

Catherine on

The photog is by Gabriel Goldberg, he is amazing!

kathleen moore on

hi, i’m looking for a easy recipe for a finger food snack for my 10 month old grandson.he loves the gerber graduates puff, does anyone have idea for something healthy and easy to make like them? thank you

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