My picky eaters can go toe to toe with the best of ‘em! Some of my kids are well-rounded eaters but others are as picky as they come. When I discovered muffin tin meals a few years ago, I figured that anything with a shot at increasing their limited food repertoire would be worth a shot!
The concept behind muffin tin meals is simple. Serve a meal or snack in a muffin tin tray. I created a rule with my kids that they had to have at least one bite from each compartment. They found the muffin tin meals so fun that they happily agreed. It wasn’t long before they were discovering new foods that they were willing to eat and before I discovered that having to fill up 6 compartments forced me to create more variety and balance in their lunches.
Sometimes I create the tins using foods that I have on hand or leftovers, but at least once a week, I try to make them a themed muffin tin. These themed tins often have treats in them, so they may not be as healthy but having these infused in between the “boring” tins keeps the kids from complaining about the one bite per compartment rule!
I also sometimes use muffin tins to hold snacks for everyone or toppings for pizzas or sundaes. For those, I use a larger tin. It’s easy once you get started to think about what to add to themed tins and the kids offer up some great suggestions. Just the other day I was talking about making a monster themed tin and they suggested me using green grapes as monster eyes. I would say that anything that has my kids excited about eating grapes is a very good thing!
These examples of just some of the muffin tins we have made show how much variety can be put into these as lunches or snacks. Pictured are tins that used leftover, snack foods such as Gluten Free Chex Mix or crackers and cheese, toppings for the kids to create their own mini pizzas, and some of our themed tins (pictured are flowers, dinosaurs, Valentines, pirates, camping, and Dr. Seuss).
What little boy wouldn’t be thrilled to get a pirate themed lunch?! Even a picky boy may be persuaded to try the cantaloup ship or salmon caught at sea!
Some moms have expressed to me their worry that these lunches take extra time to prepare or are creating an environment where the kids expect to be entertained by even their food. Most of these lunches take me less time to prepare than a regular lunch would because the pairings don’t have to make any sense. I can just pull out whatever fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, baking or leftovers I already have, throw them together in a muffin tray and call it lunch.
As for the entertainment argument, I personally have seen how quickly kids grow up as my oldest are reaching adulthood and I know that it will be a very short window of time when my younger ones will be amused by my cutting a cucumber into a heart shape, so I am happy to do it for them here and there.
If you would like more specifics on what goes into our trays or on some of the other themes that we have done, you can find that here. Some of the theme ideas I have used have included foods that all start with a certain letter (those have a lot of variety and cause my mom-brain to have to work overtime to think of 6!), foods of a certain colour, garden fare, farmer’s market, and seasons or holidays.
Muffin tin meals have been a great addition to our home! I have been amazed to see how this one little change has increased the variety that our kids eat to such an extent.