By Children’s Nutritionist Simone Emery
My youngest daughter is in love with the word literally. She sneaks it into nearly all her sentences (and mostly incorrectly.) Yet, in this article, I am LITERALLY going to be talking about the value of a “handle” for fussy eaters and how you can understand this tool to literally get a handle on fussy eating.
I distinctly remember scrawling the term “Lure of the Skewer” as a page heading idea for my book. I needed something catchy to convey just how simple an idea this was, yet how grounded in feeding research it really was. As a feeding specialist working with kids with big aversions to slippery, wet, big smell, powdery, bright, hot, mushy, cold and every other sensory input in-between, it still never ceases to amaze me what children will do with foods when they aren’t asked to eat it, yet are able to interact with it via a “handle”. The handle is working as a safe stepping stone for the child’s interaction. A way for them to feel comfortable with the food.
Examples of “handles” that kids can use to interact with new foods:
- Cutlery like a fork, knife, spoon, spork
- A skewer
- A cocktail fork
- Baking paper wrapped around the end of the food
- Foil wrapped around the end of a food
- Corn cob holders
- The bone that holds meat that is less saucy / juicy than the meat – like lamb cutlets or chicken drumsticks.
- Tongs / Ice Tongs
- Chinese soup spoon
- Mini Spatula
Giving a child a way to investigate foods with an allowance of mess and time, lets them play. And as Albert Einstein famously said, “Play is the highest form of research”. If your child is less likely to play with food due to the sensory properties of that food, they may like to try out a handle!
Here is a quick recipe for my favourite chicken drumstick marinade with my children. The chicken has a nice flavour and the baking dries out the sauce enough that it’s not super wet on its own. Yet, it can be sticky, so have a washer for them to self-clean alongside or some foil/baking paper to wrap around the end. Adapt the quantity of ingredients to the number of drumsticks that you need for your meal.
1 Clove of crushed Garlic
2 TBSP Hoi Sin Sauce
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Chicken Drumsticks
Mix the first four marinade ingredients together. In a sealable container, pour over the chicken drumsticks, seal up the container and shake the chicken around in the marinade for a minute. Pop it in the fridge overnight or at least 30 minutes to soak up the flavour. Bake the chicken on a baking tray or in a roasting pan for 50 minutes (check they are fully cooked before serving) in a moderate oven. Ensure they have a good amount of space near them so they aren’t overlapping.
Serve with a variety of vegetables from the centre of the table for the family to enjoy.
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