How to Make a Dairy-Free Diet Fun for Kids
There’s a foolproof recipe for getting children to eat (and enjoy!) their dairy-free meals. The key ingredient? Fun! A hefty dose of fun can make any lifestyle change more comfortable to endure. And if your kids are happy, family meals will be a whole lot easier for everyone.
Everybody has opinions about food, and kids are no exception. So make sure you find out their opinions. Look for opportunities to let your kids express their food preferences — what they like best, what they definitely don’t like, and what they’d be game to try.
Kids have more fun and a greater interest in meals when they have had a hand in creating them. Picking out and bringing home the ingredients you need to fix family meals is one way they can help and feel as though they’re making a contribution in the transition to a dairy-free lifestyle.
To get them involved in the shopping, when you get to the store or farmer’s market, give your kids an assignment. Young children can help pick out apples and oranges to put into your basket. You can give older children a short list and send them on missions to find what you need. For example, while you’re perusing the produce aisle for fresh broccoli and kale, send your older child to the dairy case with instructions to pick out a carton of rice milk.
Be careful not to be too particular or critical of your child’s choices at the start. Helping with simple grocery shopping tasks is a good way to build your child’s sense of confidence and mastery of the job.
Like shopping, getting kids involved in the actual preparation of meals is a fun way to engage them in the art of living dairy-free. Kids of all ages can help in the kitchen and discover how to cook.
Kids of all ages can benefit from learning kitchen safety tips and basic cooking techniques. Explain to them what you’re doing as you cook and why.
Experimenting with new dairy-free foods can be fun for you and your kids. Figure out what your children prefer and then use the results of the taste test to draft your next shopping list. In fact, you can turn tasting new foods into a game. To do so, set out samples of different kinds of nondairy milk — soy, rice, almond — and let the kids taste and evaluate them. Which ones are the creamiest and best-tasting? Ask whether they like vanilla or plain best.
Do the same with different styles of nondairy cheese — mozzarella, pepper jack, and cheddar, for example — and ask the kids to rate their favorites on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being best and 5 being worst.
When making a change to a dairy-free lifestyle, you can show your kids that it’s not that big of a deal by continuing to fix their favorite dishes. You can show them that they’re favorites still look and taste the same even when you omit the dairy. Nondairy versions of many kid-pleasing foods are guaranteed to go over well.