Will Your Kids Eat Healthy Asian Peanut Lettuce Wraps?

Okay, this is for my own benefit, but I just want to clear the air.  We are not crazy.  We do not have a crazy diet.  We do eat green and healthy and actually really enjoy it.  I do not feel deprived and don't crave meat.  So often I hear people say, "so I hear you are on a crazy diet?"  No, we're not on a diet, but we have changed our diet.  Phew...now that's done.

This being said, last night we were invited to Tyler's co-worker's house for dinner.  This friend's family has two kids and another couple that came had three kids.  Did they serve bbq chicken and chocolate peanut butter salted caramel pretzel bars (yum)?  Yes, I did have some of each.  That's how we do it.  We eat a certain way at home, but do not expect others to cook they way we do. We happily enjoy whatever food is served graciously.

The point here though, is my kids.  The table had bbq chicken, salad, a sauteed snap peas, edamame, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers side, and guacamole with chips.  I hadn't realized how far we'd come with having our kids eat healthy.  The other children at the table were told "you won't like this, let me get something you like."  I used to do that.  Maybe you find yourself doing the same.

I was the person who would make separate or just slightly different dinners for adults and kids.  I wouldn't offer them new things, because I knew they weren't going to like it.  I would bring mac and cheese to other people's house, just to make sure my kids would have something to eat.  If they wanted a snack, I went straight to something from a box or package.  Veggies, well, we would encourage, but not require.

Last night, my kids ate all the food served and enjoyed it.  The other children at the table were given granola bars, yogurt, and sliced grapes (which they didn't eat).  I'm writing this to not pat myself on the back...quite the contrary...but to give you a new perspective of eating for your children.  And all of this goes in baby steps.

We realized that we were helping our kids be picky.  We catered to our now 6-year-old and his aversion for trying anything new or retrying something he didn't like the time before.  When we realized that our other child actually liked things he didn't, which I did not offer either of them, we knew we needed to change.

So if you are finding yourself saying "my kids will never do that" or feeling frustrated about the eating habits in your house, here's what we did.

We began with making one dinner.

And at dinner, everyone must have some of everything, including parents.  Even if it's something someone has decided they don't like, they have to try one bite again.  Explain that sometimes it can take 20 or more tries to like something!  The key is, you have to make it fun.  As adults, we are the example for our children.  Even if it is just a teaspoon of a taste, it counts as trying something new. As adults, we do have some things that we don't like very much, but does my husband still try an olive every time they are offered, swallow a spoonful of sweet potatoes, and silently palate other creations...yes.  His willingness to try something new/again is a huge example for our kids.

It was amazing how fast the excitement of this experiment unified us.  It gave us something to talk about.  We talked about "sometimes foods" and "always foods."  Sometimes we make weird faces when we try things, that makes it funny!

This didn't mean I was cooking crazy recipes just to make everyone try something.  You'd be surprised what can be new or repeated every day.  In my recipe searching, I just make what looks good, so we often have new meals.  The kids don't throw fits.  And if it's really something they don't want, which has happened before, then they are free to not eat it.  The stipulation is that there will be no other eating afterwards. (Keeping in mind there is the required 1 bite.)

Before this, I was afraid of sending my precious babies to bed without a full tummy.  They can handle it and pick up in the morning like it didn't happen.  I would suggest not bringing it back up either.  Let it stay in the moment it happened.  It's important to know that it's not a punishment to not get more food.  They were given food and they choose not to eat it.  We have to give them some power.

Gradually, your family will be excited about this and it becomes the game of dinner.  I attribute our kids' adjustment to our eating style now, to us having made dinner fun previously.  There isn't anything I won't try to cook that I would be afraid to feed my kids now.  It has been a long process getting here, having started off on the wrong foot, but it's here now.

This doesn't mean we're perfect and all we eat are carrot sticks.  But we aim high and if we hit just below, we're still doing good.  Saying all this, we need to be patient with each other.  We are all dealing with our own battles and are at different places on this life ladder.  It's okay.  We're here to help each other.  No one is here to judge anyone else.

I hope this has inspired someone. It's tricky and a lot of work. I know I still have more work to do. If you have a story to share, then feel free to comment below. As parents, we're in the business of trial and error.

And now for the recipe.

I saw the baby lettuce heads at costco and knew that this recipe was calling to me (please ignore awful pictures).  So I worked some "healthy" magic on it and came up with a killer recipe that has to be a new staple.  The original recipe comes from A Feathered Nest.  The kids loved it!  It was a new way to eat with the little lettuce boats.
Asian Peanut Lettuce Wraps

2 large carrots, shredded
32 ounces mushrooms, small dice
3 green onions, small dice
2 red bell peppers, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, small dice
1-2 tsp sesame oil (add to taste)
1 head butter lettuce, leaves washed, separated, and dried (or the cute mini from costco)

For sauce:
1/4 - 1/2 bottle Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce (This is spicy!  Add to taste for kids.  We set on the table to add more for adults.)
1/3 cup Asian Toasted Sesame dressing (I used the lite version)
3-4 dashes soy sauce
1 tsp dried ginger
1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Add finely diced mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic, and zucchini to pan.  Add 8-16 ounces of water to cook.  (We don't use oil).  If you find yourself needing more water, add more.  After about 5 minutes, add sauce ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid is reduced and is almost gone and vegetables are soft and well blended.  Stir in grated carrot.  Salt to taste if needed.

You could add sunflower seeds on top if you want.  Serve with brown rice and lettuce leaves.


  1. Great post. I totally agree. I think we often don't give our kids the chance to let their preferences change. For example: I've never liked tomatoes but every summer I give them a taste just in case. And this summer, for the first time EVER, I've actually enjoyed them!

    The other funny thing I've noticed is the more we eat out the less my kids like home-cooked, healthful meals. I wish that meant that we never at fast food but that would be a lie. It is incentive to keep it to a minimum.

  2. Loved this post Bonnie. I am on page 30 of the Eat to Live Book but even still we are already eating differently and really enjoying it. It is far to easy to hand your kids processed foods for meals and snacks and I thought I was doing a decent job at avoiding those foods for her (she's never had mac and cheese from a box) but upon deeper examination I saw that there was a lot of room for improvement (she is obsessed with crackers and cereal).

    So for the past few weeks I have been putting a lot more effort into making a wider variety of foods for her and we have been enforcing a new rule that the food she gets on her plate is it and we will not supplement it with fishy crackers or starchy empty calorie foods. She has gone to bed hungry, which is honestly difficult as a mom, but it is one of those things that is better for her in the long run. And she is just fine and not wilting away.

    Slowly but surely she is becoming a better eater and I can see the long term benefits that these changes will bring. We are enjoying the changes in our diet and looking forward to making more.

  3. Becky, I'm so glad you like tomatoes now! They might be one of my favorite foods. And I agree about the kids not liking home-cooked as much after you eat out. There's a cool novelty about eating somewhere else...and for real, none of us can beat the smell of french fries! We still eat out occasionally. I felt successful that I convinced them to get the fruit cup over french fries (I might not have even mentioned french fries as an option).

    Kristin, it is hard to stick with the decision! I think little kids out of baby food jar stage, but not quite to totally independent stage, are the hardest to figure in the healthy and less empty food. Every fast snack IS a cracker. I love all your recipe suggestions! Keep them coming.

  4. Bonnie- The Tough Mudder was awesome! You guys should totally do it next year. It really was a blast. I can't wait to do one again when I'm not pregnant so I can do all of he obstacles.

    And I made your wraps last night. Yum! Wyatt loved them, Pres not so much. He chose to not eat dinner but had carrots at bed time (that's what they can eat if they don't eat dinner...'cause I'm a mean mom.) I didn't have mushrooms or peanuts but I added water chestnuts for extra crunch. Oh and I added some miso soup (left over from lunch) to cut some of the spice. Preston is super sensitive to spice, which didn't matter since he wouldn't eat it. Oh well.

  5. I love this! I have always refused to be a short order cook, one meal for everyone and not "kid-friendly" food. For a while, my husband insisted we put bread and butter on the table so the boys would have something to eat. But I decided that if he got hungry enough, he'd eat what was offered. I think he went to bed hungry often.
    Thankfully he hit puberty and began to try lots of things. It can be hard to wait but they won't starve. I have also weaned everyone off of most of the crackers and packaged snacks. They still miss it but we're eating a lot less of it and eating more whole foods.


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