Siri Daly shares her best advice for cooking with kids, dealing with picky eaters

Mom of 4 says, ‘You can’t give up. You have to realize that they’ll get there one day.’

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Siri Daly signs books at "Siriously Delicious" by Siri Daly book launch event at Williams Sonoma Columbus Circle on April 14, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Time Inc. Books) (Rob Kim, 2018 Getty Images)

Siri Daly has her own cookbook, a food blog, and regularly appears on the Today Show to share her recipes, often with husband Carson Daly by her side. But she’s also a mom who has dealt with her fair share of picky eaters.

“I have four kids. I’d say that they all around 18 months like decided to become picky. It was really interesting. It was like to the day,” Daly said.

For the author of “Siriously Delicious: 100 Nutritious (and Not So Nutritious) Recipes for the Real Home Cook,” food has always been a family affair.

“I grew up around big cooks, big eaters, my mom, my dad, my extended family, family reunions always centered around food,” Daly said. “It was a huge part of my childhood, and I just became passionate about trying things and creating things.”

It’s a passion she hopes to encourage others to share with their children.

“Cooking is such an amazing way to connect with your kids. First, they just want to help you stir and then next thing you know, you’re hearing about special moments from their day and making memories,” Daly said.

She admits, cooking with kids can get messy.

“I’m a neat freak, so I have to kind of let go of that control,” Daly said. “I know that it helps them with not only just creativity, but their palates and their diets, so it’s definitely worth it to let go of the control and get their hands dirty and messy in the kitchen.”

Daly likes to make cooking together a frequent family activity.

“We try to do like a day or two of the week, and then make something together that a.) they choose and then b.) that they want to eat throughout the week. So something like mini banana muffins or apple cinnamon granola bars, just things that they can snack on, bring to school, have after school, and they’ll be excited to eat it because they helped make it,” Daly said.

So how does Daly deal with her picky eaters?

“It sounds simple and almost not simple at the same time, but you just have to keep trying. That’s what I found,” Daly said.  “Their palettes are always evolving, always changing. You have to get creative with ingredients. You have to try them in different methods. Like my daughter, for instance, just discovered she likes apples if they’re dipped in peanut butter, so it’s just a process.  You can’t give up.  You have to realize that they’ll get there one day. My 12-year-old now is a great eater, so that gives me hope for my 21-month-old.”

We asked Daly how she handles it when most of the family likes a meal, but there’s one or two who don’t.

“I always told myself I would never cook multiple meals, and of course I’ve been there now, I’ve found myself doing it, but I try to make meals that are very adaptable,” Daly said. “We did tacos last night, for instance, and so you can make them in different ways where you’re not making four different meals but like one liked a quesadilla that had the beef in it, and one wanted just the cheese and like some avocado on the side. So it’s great to find meals that are adaptable in that way where you can kind of customize them to each kid if you have some picky eaters.”

For vegetables, Daly gets creative -- and a little sneaky.

“Try different ways of preparing them. My kids love roasted cauliflower, for instance. They would probably never eat a raw cauliflower,” Daly said. “Also I’m not above sneaking them into certain things. I have a recipe for a white grape spinach popsicle. And so, of course, it’s bright green, but you really do not taste the spinach because the white grape juice is just so delicious and juicy, it overpowers that spinach flavor.”

Daly has partnered with Juicy Juice to create recipes that encourage families to spend time together in the kitchen. One of her favorites is the Fruit Punch Smoothie Bowl.

“It’s a deconstructed smoothie. You’re going to have it in a bowl instead of a glass. It’s very simple, four ingredients. Four cups of mixed frozen berries, one banana either fresh or frozen, one cup of Greek yogurt and then one cup of Juicy Juice 100% Juice Fruit Punch. Blend it all together until smooth and then pour it in a bowl and then the fun part are the toppings, of course, and you can let your kids kind of customize their own bowls.”

Daly says potential toppings can include coconut, granola, mini chocolate chips, honey, or whatever you have on hand.

If you’re just getting started cooking with your kids, Daly suggests baking together, then moving to breakfasts.

“My son, for instance, has taken a real interest in cooking so he started with something simple like scrambled eggs and then moved on to different types of paninis,” Daly said. “Over the holidays, it was you know, another interesting holiday where we were kind of dealing with the pandemic, and so my son and I decided to do a little competition. So we did a Chopped-style cook off. "

Daly’s best advice for getting kids more involved in the kitchen:

“Have an open mind. Let them guide you. Look through cookbooks, for instance, let them pick out things that they want to make that interests them. As soon as you kind of like get that little spark of, ‘Ooo, that sounds good,’ from them, go from there,” Daly said. “Take them to the grocery store. Let them just be a part of the entire process.”

Click here to download Daly’s recipes for her Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars, Fruit Punch Smoothie Bowl, and Spinach & White Grape Frozen Pops.