The Power of Colorful Plates

by Natalie DiRocco

“Gross, I’m not eating THAT!” For parents with picky eaters, these dreadful words are uttered far too frequently.  As an aunt to whom I am convinced is the pickiest of eaters out there, this phrase has become one of familiarity and has given rise to yet another obstacle my sister (a parent of a picky eater) must overcome to ensure her daughter is consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet.

But not to be discouraged, for a study spearheaded by researchers at Cornell University shed light on a new strategy to help tackle the challenge of feeding your impossible picky eater.  Researchers found that plate presentation may be a deciding factor for what kids will eat during meals.  Adults typically view three distinct colors on a plate as appealing, whereas children respond more positively to greater diversity-that means more colors and more items! Albeit, it does not stop there, for the study also exhibited that children prefer figurative designs on their plates, for it is more enticing to the eye.

So what does all this mean?  Contrary to popular belief, kids have surprisingly different proclivity for plate presentation as contrasted with adults.  For this reason, parents ought to get creative and enjoy making their children’s plates more appealing by mixing and matching several different elements and colors in lieu of serving kids plates reflective of one’s own personal, adult preference.

There are various ways parents are capable of accomplishing fun, appetizing meals.  Mini cookie cutters are a great way to incorporate an assortment of colors and shapes onto each dish, pancakes in the shape of your child’s name, various fruits and vegetables arranged to resemble a smiling face, or peas in the shape of a heart -the possibilities of imaginative, exciting serving plates are endless and are a steppingstone to having your child one bite closer to healthy eating!

I would like to leave you with a family favorite recipe from my Father: Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes.  As a child I was lured by Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes, a method my parents used to boost the appetites of my sisters and I.  Happy eating!

Hearty  Oatmeal Pancakes

These pancakes taste great, are low fat, and pack an abundance of nutrients and fiber.  You can add various options with seasonal fruit to create variety throughout the year.


1 cup rolled oats

(You can use quick oats to give you a smoother consistency in the batter)

1 – ½ cups skim milk

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

(You can use more whole-wheat flour if you don’t have flaxseed.)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar or honey

½ – 1 cup fresh fruit as desired (blueberries and apples are great)

½ cup chopped nuts as desired

Step 1. Place the oats in a mixing bowl.  Add enough milk to cover the oats and let stand for 15 minutes

Step 2: Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Add this to the oatmeal when it is ready.

Step 3: Stir egg, brown sugar or honey, remaining milk, and oat mixture into mixing bowl with other ingredients until combined.

Step 4: Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot and lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden-brown, about 1 minute. Flip with a spatula and cook other side, about 1 minute more. (Lightly oil griddle between batches.)


Zampollo, Francesca, Kniffin, Kevin. M., Wansink, Brian, Shimzu, Mitsuru. (2012). Food plating preferences of children: the importance of presentation on desire for diversity. Acta Paediatrica, 101 (1): 61-66.



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