All the Ways Parents Fudge the Truth About Their Kid's Foods

Dino trees, pizza chicken, cowboy stew. Sometimes reframing what we call food leads to a dinnertime win for tired parents just hoping to survive until bedtime.

Boy looking over bowl of soup
Photo: Getty

Dinnertime at my house could be dinnertime at any family's house. When the kids ask what's for dinner and the answer is not macaroni and cheese or pizza, cue the rebellion. Since dinner tantrums and fervent negotiations to get a child to "just try a bite" grow old really fast, can you blame parents for coming up with strategies to get picky eaters to eat what we prepare? As a mom of five, I've found that sometimes finessing food names a bit when the hangry mob (my kids) want to know what I'm serving tonight, wins the day.

The observation that rebranding the menu makes for smoother sailing during dinner was not lost on a group of Redditors who shared their humble hacks for keeping the peace when pizza isn't the plan. In a moment reminiscent of Green Eggs and Ham, the original poster (OP) said about a stepson, "The biggest problem is that he THINKS that he doesn't like certain foods." The OP added, "His dislike of most foods is almost entirely mental, and no amount of explaining or urging to try something new works."

That's when parents familiar with this battle stepped in with their suggestions. "I love the fun names trick!" a commenter said, going on to share, "I successfully branded chili as 'cowboy chili' after a book that had cowboys eating out of an ambiguous pot, and my 4-year-old now LOVES it and asks for it, when he 'hated' it before." Another commenter said kids who despise scrambled eggs gobble them up when they're called "golden fluff."

Repackaging how you sell dinner to children seems to be a tried-and-true tactic for parents everywhere, with another Redditor in the thread sharing, "My kids don't like curry. But they like chicken, rice, and 'sauce.'" Similarly, in our house, broccoli is also known as dino trees, because otherwise my preschooler won't touch it. Meanwhile, meatballs are called cannonballs in plenty of kitchens where the goal is less whining from kids. Also, in addition to the being all set with negotiating, parents don't want to waste food.

Another way to go is to keep your description vague when your child asks about dinner. After all, do they need to see a detailed ingredient list with the nutritional value spelled out? Probably not. Simply telling your kids that you're serving pasta and sauce, without adding it's made with onions and peppers, keeps little wheels from starting to turn with a plot to boycott the meal.

Ultimately, as one parent in the Reddit thread put it, telling your child tonight's meal is "pizza chicken" and not chicken parmesan is about survival. Unless you're a short-order cook, preparing one meal that your entire family can eat is the holy grail. And if you have to rename rice "baby pasta" or call roasted potatoes "French fry balls," then so be it.

Nine times out of 10, once my child tries a bite of the reframed food I'm serving, even if they insist they don't care for turkey ("another chicken"), or spaghetti with marinara sauce ("noodles and pizza sauce") or any vegetable whatsoever no matter what, they like it! Go figure.

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