Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How We Eat

We usually don't do traditional meals at our house, in that most of the time, I don't make individual plates for the kids and we do not have set meal times. Instead, inspired by Sandra Dodd, I have a few platters with small sections and I put different foods in each section.  I cut up vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, cheese, and I even include candy, cookies, or chips.

Tomatoes, Carrots, Mango, Avocado, Blueberries, Purple Licorice, and Bacon

Rather than sit at a high table, we eat at the coffee table so the kids can reach it easily, and they can come and go as they please. We do this two or three times a day, and we snack on things in between. As I explained in Food Freedom last week, my children are free to eat whatever, whenever. Sometimes they have ice cream or popsicles or chips while I am fixing a platter. Often they will put down a half-eaten popsicle once the platter comes out.

Some of my favorite things about the platter way:

  1. We all share the food so I don't keep track of how much they are eating. I trust they will eat when they are hungry.
  2. It makes me feel creative. Sometimes I try to make a rainbow platter (red berries, carrots, scrambled eggs, cucumbers, blueberries). I like playing with the colors of the food in patterns.
  3. It inspires me to always offer six or seven different kinds of food. I usually put hummus, ketchup, or syrup in the middle. It keeps me from being lazy about food most of the time.
  4. The kids love to eat this way. Almost anything can be made bite-sized and kid-friendly.
  5. There are fewer dishes to clean, and we hardly ever use silverware.
We started this over a year ago and it has been wonderful. The kids get excited when I bring out a platter. My four-year-old Louise is always impressed, she often spontaneously thanks me for bringing her food. She loves when I put something new on a platter, or when I surprise her with a favorite thing that we haven't had in a while.

If the kids are not interested in anything on a platter, I am happy to make them something else. But this rarely happens because I try to choose mostly foods I know they will enjoy. I will include only one or two new things at a time.

The platter way of serving food goes along well with unschooling. It is a way to give the kids access to foods, without a prescription for how much and what time to eat. It means giving the kids opportunities to eat, without requirements. It allows them to have control of their food choices without pushing on them the responsibility of preparing their own foods. Right now, they don't like when I make things with recipes. Especially Louise does not like when things are mixed together, or when foods that she likes look different than she is used to (like melted cheese, or anything with sauce or dressing). But I figure that could change as they get older and they are more adventurous with tastes and textures.

I should say that we eat at my parents' house often, where we all sit around a big table and it is more traditional. We have also had some "dinner parties" (even if it's just us) where we get to set the table pretty. But for now, while my kids are so young, and happier to eat finger foods, the platters work for us most of the time.

A fruit platter.

A breakfast platter, including mango, French toast, tomatoes, bacon, "egg noodles," and toast.

After we got some new platters at Ikea, Louise wanted to have a "platter party." We came up with 15 different foods, one for each section.


  1. Love the pictures. I am totally going to do platter lunches when we finally settle into a home this summer. I never know what to do for lunches and this is perfect. I am not sure if I have any good platters but who doesn't love a reason to go to Ikea?

  2. Agree with Melissa J re Ikea as long as you don't have to put something together. I assume the platters come assembled.

  3. Neat idea. We also do unfooding, but I never thought about going for a platter-take on it. Occasionally, I've done something similar for breakfast, but dinner and lunch seem a bit hard since we tend to eat stir fry meals, or 'messier' meals.

  4. I've seen this before but never followed through. I was inspired today and totally made the Wild Things an assorted tray for lunch. Woot.

  5. This something I did before (but not as beautifully arranged!) occasionally and thought this is so out of the 'norm'. My older two kids get out of school in 2 weeks for summer and I will be doing this more as a daily lunch! Happy to know others out do this on the regular! Thanks for the insperation!!!

  6. @Melissa and Skeptical, Ikea is the best! One of the platters (the three-tiered one) actually did require assembly...

    @Lyndz, Yes, some foods wouldn't work as well this way. When we have soup or yogurt or ice cream, and a few other things, we skip the platter. But it really work great for most things!

    @Jessica, Glad you were inspired :)

    @jessica m, Go for it! And take pictures! It's fun.

  7. I wish I could do this so bad. We're living with my parents right now and their dog will eat anything left down in her reach. Once we move out though, I am so doing this!

  8. @Alice, Yes it would be hard with a dog! :)

  9. We've worked at helping our dog learn to respect that the humans "own" the food until deciding to share it. Not perfect (he respects me, but the kids tend to forget to remind him or feed him from the platter, which he takes as permission....but it can be done.

  10. @Shannon, I'm impressed! What a great thing to be able to do with your dog.

  11. I do like this article. When I was younger my mother used to think I ate too little and force food on me. I sometimes ate to the point where I was throwing up and my mother would blame me for it or scare me by saying I'd have problems when I was older. I'm a teenager now. I eat a normal amount of food and am accepting of the amount I eat. I don't pay attention to my mom's comments anymore. I am satisfied with the way I feel about the amount I eat.