Handling the holidays with toddlers is not quite the treat it should be. Many parents feel overwhelmed by the parties and the children are over stimulated by all the colors, smells, sights and sounds.  The combo creates a sticky mess and the gatherings that should be a pleasure melt like so many candy canes placed too close to the heater.
Rule number one when taking kids to a party is not to count on that party for sustenance.  Kids are best either fed ahead of time or seriously considered in the dish that you are bringing to the gathering.  We can’t expect a 3 year old to like Donna’s artichoke dip or an 8 year old to sit patiently at the table while Don carves roast beef for the crowd.  If there was ever a call for preventative medicine, this is it.  If we want good behaviour and a moment to catch up with our friends a well fed child is more likely to deliver.
This way, whatever your child does eat is a bonus. It is pretty tough for the best of us to avoid the chip bowl and the cakes platter but indulging in these pre-dinner treats will create a blood sugar spike that will give us a whipped up version of our child.  The oncoming blood sugar crash will come right about the time when everyone is sitting down to dinner and your child is whining and exhausted.  Not a great scene for the other guests and no fun for you.
A good hearty meal served just before entering the party will buy you an hour or so to chat while your child is too full to be overly tempted by more than a few of the chocolates in the bowl. Bringing a protein based dip like the Tofu Caesar Salad Dressing or Dip below is a good idea especially if you have made it at home a few times and your child knows what it is and that he likes it.  Contributing the mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes to the dinner table that are made the way your child likes them is a good way to get some sustenance into her when everything else looks weird.
Now is not the time to insist that children try anything new or eat everything on the plate.  Now is the time (since you know that these foods are simply bonuses) to allow a child to explore un-fettered.  Allowing children to choose at this stage takes advantage of a perfect opportunity to try new foods that mom didn’t have to cook in a festive environment where the child may be open to it. A teaspoon or two of items they think they might like is a way better bet than a plateful of foods that you think they should like.
Taking the pressure off the meal is the name of the whole game but never is it more important than when your mother-in-law is watching or your sister is commenting. Layering on good experiences at social gatherings helps a child learn how to navigate these situations without feeling stress and anxiety.  Both are terrible feelings and each will make your hair frizz before the traditional family photo is taken.
Tofu Caesar Dip
As is, this recipe makes a nice thick dip.  Or, you can make it into a dressing by thinning the mixture with water.

Recipe By: Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP
Serving Size: 8 Preparation Time 3 minutes

  • 1  cup  tofu — silken
  • 1/8 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove  garlic — minced
  • 4 dashes  Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes  Tabasco pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 cup  apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 cup  fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon  anchovy paste

Blend in blender.  Let sit at least 1 hour.