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I’m a sucker for themes. You may already have figured that out. Almost nine years ago, I had the idea to help encourage my toddler to expand his palette and eat a wider range of foods by making it more appealing, thematically. I developed a rainbow menu. I told him each day we would focus on a different color and that I would serve him a surprise lunch focused on that color. Being two and a half at the time, colors were all the rage, so this was a super exciting idea to him too, though he had no idea what he was getting into… I have to admit, he was a pretty good sport.
I have another toddler in my house these days and thought I’d do the whole menu-thing again for the ‘Gram and this blog. So I’ve documented in pictures and in writing the meals I prepared for my four darlings each lunch (one breakfast) this past week in case you’d like to snag any of these ideas to get you out of a summer rut of slapping together the same PB&Js or heating up the same dino nuggets. It does take a little bit of planning and obviously a trip to the grocery store, but it’s honestly not that hard. And maybe it’s because my kids get excited about themes too because they share my genetics, but they seemed pretty eager to see what I’d prepared for each color. Whether they inhaled it with the same vigor each day was debatable. (We skipped Blue Day since the only true blue food is a blueberry – so we just had those as a snack to honor its hue.)
As you can tell by our pictures, we also embraced the theme with our clothing choices. The kids searched their closets for shirts to match the “color of the day” and my hubby joined in on the fun when he could. My other fun suggestions for the week: if the day allows it, it’s fun to go on a little neighborhood walk (or drive) and find all the items you can with that color. Or you can make a color collage at home with stickers, crayons, stamps, yarn, paint, etc. Or read one of our family’s favorite books about colors, The Day the Crayons Quit.
We had a couple of interesting conversations while dining… we asked each other:
– What’s your favorite color and why? Do you think that some colors are attributed to certain emotions; why might that be? (That last question was for the slightly older kids.)
– Do you know why foods are (naturally) colored the way they are? God made all sorts of different foods and many of the colors indicate what benefits they can bring to our bodies. For example, orange foods contain alpha-carotene which can protect against cancer and beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A. Certain red and purple foods are loaded with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to protect against heart disease by preventing blood clots.* It’s pretty cool to think that certain foods, though tasting very different, can have certain things in common.
If this whole menu idea has you shaking your head because you’re afraid your child(ren) is just too picky of an eater, I encourage you to give it a try anyway. Think outside the box with the food(s) they like and see if you can dabble in a different color choice. Add a new food or two and just ask them to touch it or lick it first. If that’s all they can do, then accept it as a win. If they can take one bite, awesome! It takes repeated exposures for young palettes to change over from something being gag-worthy, so don’t get discouraged.
If you’re interested in replicating this week, or any meal in it, I’ve provided a printable pantry/shopping list below to help you plan for the week. There are certainly more food options than the ones I presented my kids, so I included those on the list as well in case you wanted to swap some out. You know your kids, so have fun with it! And if you choose to do this little color experiment, I’d LOVE to see the pictures! Tag me in a photo on Facebook (Created Beloved – Amy Millsap) or Instagram (@createdbeloved).
In case anyone’s wondering… my kiddos’ unanimous vote for this week’s favorite Rainbow Meal was, hands down: Orange
“Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” – Proverbs 15:17
*research from Dr. Mark Hyman, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?