Concept: Help them expand their tomato horizons. With dippable pieces of a grilled-cheese sandwich, they'll soak up a healthy dose of tomato soup (tell them it's the “big kids’ ” version of ketchup).
Execution: Instead of slicing a grilled cheese into halves, cut it into four squares, triangles, or sticks.
Variations: Any hot sandwich―a quesadilla, a grilled ham-and-cheese, even a hamburger―is a good candidate for soup-dunking. If kids like the idea, try transitioning them to tomato-based vegetable soups.
2 of 7Yunhee Kim
Pretzel Sticks With Edamame Dip
Concept: Creamy, slightly sweet, and packed with protein, edamame (soybeans picked when they're still green) is a smart solution for the child who spurns most meats. This dip is so good for them, kids could eat it with potato chips and it probably wouldn't matter. But try pretzels first.
Execution: Defrost a 14-ounce package of frozen shelled edamame, then puree them in a food processor with 1 tablespoon of yogurt and a pinch of salt.
Variations: For a similar (but greener) crunch, pair the dip with celery or raw broccoli. If you can't find edamame, use frozen green peas. For a sweeter dip, use equal parts edamame and peas.
3 of 7Yunhee Kim
Pita Scoops With Chili
Concept: Get protein and protein-rich legumes down their gullets by using a pita chip as a spoon.
Execution: Pick up store-bought pita chips. Or, to make your own, cut a white or whole-grain pita into 6 or 8 wedges, brush with olive oil, and bake at 350° F until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.
Variations: Tortilla chips (or tortillas cut and baked like the pitas; see above) are even crunchier than the pita variety. Instead of chili, try another protein-packed stew (like chicken cacciatore) or a hearty bean salad.
4 of 7Yunhee Kim
Carrot Chopsticks With Mac 'N' Cheese
Concept: Fashion carrots into edible chopsticks your child can eat his favorite food with. Not only might he willingly eat his vegetables but he'll also be having a lesson in dexterity. (If he doesn't get the chopstick thing right away, he can "thread" the spear into the macaroni tubes and eat them one by one.)
Execution: Peel and slice carrots into (sturdy) spears with a tip on one end. Make a couple of pairs, in case the chopsticks run out before the macaroni does.
Variations: Try this with any shape or flavor of pasta, including the plain buttered kind. Or let kids dunk ready-to-eat baby carrots into the cheesy sauce and eat the noodles with a fork.
5 of 7Yunhee Kim
Pork Chop Chunks With Applesauce
Concept: Wouldn't it be nice to add one more real meal to your repertoire of dinners the whole family will eat? Cut a pork chop into chunks that small hands can spear with a fork, and serve them with a dish of applesauce. Bonus: Applesauce will help cool a hot pork chop quickly―as will a dollop of sour cream.
Execution: Sauté a plain pork chop or cutlet in olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or prepare it any way you like, whether breaded or plain, pan-fried or baked.
Variations: Substitute chicken for the pork. Add a pinch of cinnamon or a drizzle of maple syrup to the applesauce. Blended with berries, it might score big if your toddler is a sucker for anything pink.
6 of 7Yunhee Kim
Green Beans With Ketchup
Concept: Even green beans, the finger-friendly go-to vegetable for the under-12 set, occasionally need an added enticement. The sky won't fall if you resort to the bright red sweet-salty condiment every once in a while to make the vegetable extra palatable. Still a hard sell? Try calling the beans green French fries.
Execution: Instead of boiling the beans and losing some nutrients, steam them over simmering water for about 7 minutes; or place them on a plate with a few drops of water, cover, and microwave for about 1½ minutes (for slightly crunchy) to 2 minutes (for a little mushy).
Variations: This trick might work with "baby trees"(a.k.a. broccoli florets) or "snow trees" (a.k.a. cauliflower). Or try barbecue sauce in place of ketchup.