My daughter, Kassidy, is a picky eater. I'm just going to get that out of the way immediately. She definitely likes more interesting foods than your typical four-year-old - she's really into sushi, for instance - but she's gone through her fair share of loving a food one day, then refusing to touch it with a 10-foot-pole the next. She also has a lot of allergies, so I have to be cognizant of what ingredients are in certain foods. Otherwise, within a few minutes, she'll break out in hives on her hands, cheeks, and chest.
Still, for the most part, she eats what the family eats. For dinner, that means a protein, vegetable, and a small serving of carbs. If I make peas or corn, she devours it with no argument. Zucchini, though, is a major no-go. Chicken and steak are winners, but pork and seafood are 100 percent out in her mind.
Most of the time, I cook. We don't order out a lot, and I try to stay away from packaged foods when I can. But I'm not going to pretend I'm some superhero mom. Sometimes there's just not enough time. Like now, for instance: As soon as my daughter's home from school, we have play dates, then housework, and somewhere in between I have to throw together a quick meal before heading off to T-ball. So she may very well get a sandwich and carrot sticks before we're out the door.
That's why, when I was asked if I would feed her frozen dinners for a week, I was intrigued. I was skeptical, too - with her allergies, could she even eat these foods? Would the dinners be loaded with sodium and ingredients I couldn't pronounce? Would she even pick up the fork for a bite? But I was also hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, we would find something that clicked. A quickie dinner that I felt good about serving her, and a meal that she would actually eat and enjoy.
Grocery shopping was really tough. While scouring the frozen section of Walmart, I realized just how difficult it was to find meals that had at least one vegetable in them while still being kid-friendly. It was nearly impossible. So I ended up with Weight Watchers Smart Ones Pizza for one night, knowing I'd serve baby carrots alongside it.
The next store had better options. I'd seen the Kidfresh brand mentioned in a mommy Facebook group discussing how to get picky eaters to eat vegetables, and apparently they puree the vegetables and hide them in the food. So I grabbed the mac 'n' cheese variety, one of her favorite dinners, and crossed my fingers that she wouldn't notice the difference. I also tossed Michelina's chicken fried rice into the cart, as the chicken, rice, and peas are all pretty child-friendly. But I will admit, I wasn't super impressed with the nutrition label.
Finally, a third grocery store had the rest of my options. (Seriously, I had to go to three stores. No way that'll happen on a regular basis.) I grabbed a Lean Cuisine alfredo pasta - I know she won't be excited about the broccoli, but the noodles and chicken may win her over. And a Kid Cuisine mini corn dogs box went into the cart because there's a serving of vegetables with each meal, and the corn dogs are made out of turkey, making them a slightly healthier option. I'm not a fan of how much of this meal is bad (3/4 of the items are unhealthy), but I remember eating them as a kid myself, and I know the kid-friendly set-up will be a hit with my daughter.
As soon as we sat down for night one, I could tell this week would be interesting.
Going into this experiment, I wanted to drum up as much excitement as I could so she wouldn't put up too much of a fight when it was time for dinner. So each day, I let her choose which frozen meal she got to have. Tonight, she went for the corn dog, telling me she liked the penguin on the box.
As soon as she started eating, she told me she thought the corn was supposed to be mac 'n' cheese, but it was OK, so she would still eat it. (Thanks for letting me know, child.) Of course she liked the corn dog, and she was excited for the brownie at the end. I was impressed that she ate the whole thing; she only needed one reminder that she didn't get the brownie if she didn't eat the corn first. So this one was definitely kid-approved - but at 490 calories, 15g of fat, and 760mg of sodium, it definitely wasn't mom-approved. I did understand the convenience of frozen meals, though: It was T-ball night, and it was hella hard to get out of the house on time even without her fighting over food.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Once Kassidy piled into the car after school, all she talked about was dinner. "I'm going to have pizza, mom," she said over and over again. Clearly, being in charge of picking dinner is a hit. That, or the idea of having pizza is the real winner. Probably a little of both, if I'm being totally honest.
Unfortunately, though, this one was a big miss. The first thing she did was pick the pepperoni off (because she's four and picky), and after a few bites, she gave me a thumbs down. When I asked her why, because she's eaten any other pizza she's ever been given, she told me, "The ends (crust) are good, but the middle is gross. That sauce is disgusting." Oh well - at least the carrots were a hit.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
This is the one meal that I've been excited for Kassidy to try. Seriously, I watched her put the fork to her mouth and realized I was holding my breath as she ate. "Why are you being weird?" she asked. Alright, kid, I can take a hint.
Anyway, my fingers were crossed because she decided that she hates cooked carrots this week, and although she couldn't see any veggies, there were pureed carrots mixed into the cheese sauce. And at only 270 calories, 12g of protein, and a mere 4g of sugar, I wouldn't feel bad about keeping a few on hand. Verdict: She liked it! Her favorite part was that the noodles were shaped like "snowflakes," and she finished the whole thing without any complaint. I'm deeming this one a major win.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Once she took a bite of the noodles, the first thing Kassidy said was, "This kind of tastes like mac 'n' cheese, and I like mac 'n' cheese." Thinking this could be a back-to-back success, I encouraged her to eat more; this time with some of the sauce. That's where things went downhill. She quickly changed her opinion of the meal, deeming it "yucky." After a few more bites, she said she was done and asked for strawberries instead. Le sigh.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
From the very beginning, Kassidy was not a fan of this dinner. So clearly the whole thought process behind me choosing a meal with ingredients she usually likes - chicken, rice, and peas - was dead wrong. She told me the rice was no good, the peas tasted like "rotten apples," and the chicken was gross. Oh, and because she apparently hates cooked carrots now, that was a bust, too. Lovely.
I can't say I'm too upset, though. Just one serving has 1,140mg of sodium and 11g of fat. I like that it has 12g of protein, but with the other nutrition facts I wouldn't serve this to her again.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
At the end of the week, I asked Kassidy what she thought about her meals. She said some were good - the corn dogs, unsurprisingly, were her favorite, and the mac 'n' cheese was a win, so I'd be willing to try more from the Kidfresh line as we juggle T-ball, school, and the 101 other things on the calendar. But when I asked if she wanted to keep eating frozen meals or if she likes it better when I cook dinner, she immediately said, "I want you to cook for me." Guess I'm doing something right in the mom department.
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