My kids will literally lick the wall of the pediatrician's office and try to chew on their shoes while watching movies, but hand them a plate of forgeign food, like lasagna, and get ready for the wailing to start.
I grew up eating family dinners at seven every evening. I don't remember taking "no thank you bites" or turning up my nose at anything as foreign as a casserole. I just remember sitting down, all six of us, and enjoying dinner together. Ok, I also remember a conversation about astromony at age six and deciding I had the most boring family ever.
Dinner for my family of four is harder. My kids are little, so they're hungry at 5:30, not 6:30 when dad is home and we could all eat together. The grown-ups like spicy one-dish dinners and big salads topped with protein, tall orders for a two and four year old.
My solution, in lieu of becoming a short-order cook (which, ok, I totally resort to some nights because everybody eats scrambled eggs), is to serve them deconstructed versions of our dinner on fun plates. Not character plates, mind you, but actual taco trays, specifically, this 3-Section Serve Tray by Zak! Designs.
Zak! tells you to use the tray to serve dips, nuts, desserts, and more, but forget that noise. In our house, this tray holds tiny mise en place bowls of hummus, yogurt, and dried fruits surrounded by (frozen) turkey meatballs, raw veggies, and pieces of hard cheese. And my kids love it.
Related: Fun Snacks for Kids
Our friends at Cooking Light lauched Snack Dinner as a way to survive the week and enjoy the weekend, and, while I love that idea for myself, it works even better for my kids. Serving them good, whole foods and allowing them to pick and choose what to eat, and how much of it to eat, means that they feel empowered and I feel relieved. Plus, it's dishwasher safe, so it's welcome in my house. I tried to get them to call it Snack Dinner, but the first night I served on the tray (out of desperation, actually), we were mid-tea party, so this spread is now Tea Party Dinner at our house. Hashtag pending.
Now, I kid you not, my children actually beg for the raw veggie tray when we roll through Costco on Saturdays. I hem and haw as if to debate if we can get such an indulgent treat, embracing my sanctimommy moment as others watch my children clamoring for raw carrots, fighting over who gets to hold the tray in the cart, which they of course then lick, knocking my Mom of the Year status down significantly.
Related: The Best Lunchbox for Kids & Adults
Sometimes getting kids to eat a decent dinner can be a battle, but it doesn't have to be. Choose what's important to you then make the rest fun. For me, the dinnerware switch from boring plates to a weird tray was all the needed to try raw snap peas. Cauliflower is still on the outs, though, so there's always room for improvement.