Why do they want dinner every single night?Lately, this seems to be the most popular question in my house. Whether it is 6 am or 6 pm, dinner seems to be on everyone’s mind. I’ve blogged before about simple solutions to the challenge of getting a healthy dinner on the table that everyone will eat. However, recently, my two easy eaters have become more selective, creating a frustrating battle of wills at the dinner table. I revisited Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding to remind myself that the parent is responsible for what, when and where the child eats and the child is responsible for how much and whether. To help with this, I have incorporated the dinner bar into many of our evening meals. This concept, developed by pediatric dietitian, Jill Castle, allows parents to choose the main entrée, but gives kids the power to decide how they will prepare theirs. This has helped ease tension at meal time and given my boys (and husband!) the freedom to choose what to eat from the healthy foods I provide. Best of all it doesn’t require labor over a recipe that no one eats! Below are our favorite dinner bar dinners. We round them out with fresh fruit and milk.

  • Pasta Bar: Give children a plate of pasta (preferably whole grain) and allow them to add pasta sauce, ground turkey breast or lean ground beef, steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, spinach and other veggies you desire. Serve with grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese.
  • Pizza Bar: This is our Friday night stand by. Give the choice of a whole wheat English muffin, tortilla, or mini pizza shells.  Offer toppings such as turkey pepperoni, shredded chicken, sautéed peppers, mushrooms, olives, broccoli and reduced fat cheese. Then let the child create their pizza and name it!
  • Taco Night: Taco night is a favorite in our house and I love this idea for walking tacos! I offer fish as a filling and veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, avocado, salsa and plain yogurt (in place of sour cream).

Do you ever incorporate the dinner bar at mealtime?

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN