Eep! The kids are heading back to school and so begins the quest to pack lunches that are healthy, delicious and yes, even visually appealing. By now, you've probably heard of food art. Some parents have tapped into their creative side by arranging, molding and sculpting various foods into animals and popular cartoon characters to make meal times more fun and dare I say, more successful?
Why the trouble? Can't kids just eat what we eat, the way we eat it?!
A few researchers from London and Cornell University showed 48 different combinations of food on plates to kids and adults, and asked which ones they preferred. Kids opted for plates that included:
- 6 different colours or food items (adults preferred 3!)
- the main part of their meal in the front
- some empty space (not overcrowded)
- food made into shapes and pictures
These findings shed light on how we can support healthy eating using age-appropriate strategies and remind us kids don't always like the same things grown-ups do.
So does food art actually work? Does that mean I have to become a food artist?
Food writer, Jess Thompson, admits her son doesn't always give into her edible creations. But by integrating creative, kid-friendly surprises here and there, she's noticed changes in her son's palate and how much fun he derives from not only his own lunch but also from the play that emerges between friends who share food.
But, this doesn't mean you have to learn how to create a masterpiece every day. Here are some of the easiest, most adorable, gluten-free and vegan food ideas for kids. No fancy sculpting tools or food markers required!
1. Chicken & Pesto Caterpillars
Remember our Pulled Chicken & Pesto Wraps? Add the chicken to the food processor with your pesto for an ultra creamy spread. Roll it up in brown rice tortillas and slice into kid-friendly pinwheels! Try other spreads, such as avocado-egg salad, pureed chickpeas and roasted red pepper, or tuna blended with kale and apple. So many possibilities!
2. Silly Apple Bites
How cute are these? Swap out the candy eyes with organic dark chocolate chips or blueberries and stick them on with nut butter.
3. Summer Pancakes
Bring your pancakes to life by adding a variety of colourful fruit slices. No fancy cutting experience needed!
4. Spaghetti Pesto Lady
Messy hair, don't care! Switch up her 'do by replacing the pesto for tomato or meat sauce. You can also use zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of brown rice pasta! ^_^
5. Acai Bowl with Apple Sharks
These acai bowls are packed with nutrition and can be super fun to eat when transformed into a dramatic shark scene. Let your kids choose what other toppings or elements they want to add to the show. Same idea can apply to green smoothies, oatmeal or even soup!
6. Butterfly Quesadillas
Stuff some brown rice tortillas with your favourite fillings to create these butterfly quesadillas. Use a row of grapes, celery or carrot sticks for the body.
7. Blueberry Banana Bear Muffins
These little guys take almost no skill. Just stick banana slices, organic dark choco chips (or blueberries) and almonds into any muffin recipe. Voila! Bear muffins. Get the original recipe for this Gluten-Free Blueberry Banana Bread here and split the batter into muffin liners.
8. Crispy Coconut Chicken Chums
Seriously, put a face on any food and you've got food art. Try adding faces to homemade veggie burgers (make smaller patties), meatballs or roasted veggies.
Have you tried any creative food art ideas? What are your kids' favourites?