Kitchen Shrink: Membership soars in Picky Eaters’ Club



As back-to-school time approaches, parents need some gustatory coaching so children will be fueled, focused and nourished for the long school day.

Budding Taste Buds

According to Dr. Alan Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist and founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, children have a more refined sense of smell than adults. This translates to a heightened sense of taste, along with an ability to detect underlying flavors.

Foods for Focus and Fuel

Certain foods can dial up attention by keeping brain cells on their toes, so amp up omega-3 fatty acid blockbusters like wild salmon fish sticks, crab cake sliders and fish tacos. Nuts and nut butters, especially walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds get an A+ for their brain-boosting omega-3’s.

Walnuts have also been found to hike melatonin levels, one of the sleep-regulating hormones in the body. Munch on these soporific treats as a bedtime snack to be well rested in the a.m.

A purple powerhouse, blueberries are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals for re-charging memory and cognitive processing. Toss them in muffins, breads, bars, or eat them straight up.

Refreshing mint has been linked to greater concentration and the ability to recall information. Before a quiz, kids should sip a cool swig of mint-infused H2O to boost test scores.

Also pack foods to fuel their engines like beans, legumes or hummus loaded with protein, iron, magnesium and selenium. Avocados can be cleverly disguised as guacamole — a load of Vitamin C and potassium. Eggs, a great protein-Vitamin B12 source are all they’re cracked up to be whether devilled, fried in a hole, baked in avocados, done as southwest breakfast burritos or as mini frittata sliders.

Think Outside the Lunchbox

Do Bento-style boxes with compartmental sections to house everything from real or faux sushi pinwheels with nut butters or cheeses to Crayola colorful carrot curls, marinated cucumber spears, seasoned jicama sticks, confetti fruit salad and creamy yogurt dip, a natural probiotic that promotes intestinal health.

Have your kids be the sous chefs and fill the containers with their faves. Plant a garden and have them pick fresh organic herbs or vegetables to include in lunches. Provide them with a fun lesson on nutrition, farm to table ethos and sustainability.

Let kids help with a menu plan using ethnic themes for different days of the week. On Mediterranean Mondays do pita and hummus with a Greek salad, an Italian feast on Tuesdays with foccacia pizzas, and a Mexican fiesta of veggie quesadillas and guacamole on Wednesdays. Have a yen for Asian on Thursdays with a Chinese chicken salad and chocolate dipped fortune cookie, while on Yankee Doodle Fridays pack an almond butter and jam sandwich.

• RECIPE: Bacon and Egg Salad with Toast

— Overall Ingredients:

  • 1 Romaine heart, torn in bite-size pieces
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1 hard boiled egg, quartered
  • 2 strips crispy turkey bacon, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat croutons

— Italian Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

— Method:

Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

In a mixing bowl, toss the salad ingredients, except the croutons. Transfer to a portable container. Put the croutons and dressing in separate containers and toss before eating.

— For more school lunch suggestions, e-mail