Jamie & her son left, delicious vege tacos right

By Erickka Sy Savané

For many moms, getting our kids to eat foods that are healthy and good for them is like pulling teeth.  If it ain’t fried or dipped in sugar they don’t want it. At the same time though, we bare the responsibility because they can’t eat what we don’t put in front of them. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t know that eating well is the key to a long, healthy life, and setting up good habits now, while our kids are still young, is essential. So what’s a well-meaning mom who wants to do better to do? For the answer we turn to Jamie D. Rhoden, mom of two boys, ages 13 and 14 years old. Jamie has been working at popular, Marcus Samuelson-owned Red Rooster in Harlem for the past 6 years, going from server assistant to supervisor, to working in pastry, and having some of her own recipes featured on the menu. Coming from a background that is Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and Irish, Jamie grew up between Atlanta, DC, and Los Angeles, eating a wide range of delicious foods that she’s been passing down to her boys, right along with background stories. Safe to say, her sons eat everything she places in front of them, always have, and she’s going to share how we can get our kids to do the same.


Jamie with her dad

Do you come from a family that likes to cook?

Yes cooking was a connection to my culture. My Jamaican/Irish father is an amazing cook and my biggest influence on food. His parents both could cook and shared their recipes and stories that went along with it. My Puerto Rican grandfather was a Chef for American Airlines and my Grandma was an everything woman, meaning she was a mother and grandmother to everyone around in her neighborhood. She always had me in the kitchen with her it was where I learned as well. My favorite things to make when little was from scratch banana bread, rice crispy treats, chicken parmesan with fresh grated parmesan bread crumb crust. What I loved eating was Ackee and Starfish w Fried Dumplings, Rice and beans, Red pea soup.

What did you want to provide for your kids in terms of eating, as a mom?

I learned at a very young age about vegetables and fruits. It was always something I wanted for my boys. Developing the palate so they will want to eat their veggies.

What are some of your kids favorite dishes?
Baked salmon, roasted asparagus and rice pilaf, baked chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, eggplant pasta with spinach with zucchini noodles and fresh mozzarella. Any kind of taco especially fish ones.
Shrimp Wonton Tacos (peep this mom always uses a paper plate!)

What should a parent do if their kids don’t seem to like veges? I used to sneak it in noodles, salads…pasta sauce hides veggies well. Roasted, boiled with butter make a difference in taste. First thing for parents is you have to eat them too. If you talk about veggies while grocery shopping they are more likely to question how they eat them. 

What is the key to getting kids to eating foods that are good for them, but not necessarily kid friendly?
Honestly the cooking channel and if the funds are available try a new cuisine at a new restaurant and also make it a learning experience of other cultures, and your own family history.

What’s a mistake that a lot of moms/parents make when it comes to what their kids eat? 
They allow the kids to choose what they want and just make it or make something frozen or a quick meal.
Chicken meatballs prepped and ready to go!
What tips do you give moms when it comes to food prep? Especially, for moms who are so busy they don’t feel they have time to cook?
What you should do is once the kids are asleep season your meat if taken out the day before. Think and discuss what should be for dinner the day before and work it into your routine. Mise en place is french and means having everything in place. Set your whole dinner up ready to go.

How much time do you spend cooking most of your kid’s meals?

It takes about 30 mins.

What’s your favorite to cook?
My favorite is my grandfather’s soup. Red pea soup.

How can moms find new recipes or inspiration to break out of the normal food routine? 
That happens to me too, it is so common especially if you don’t feel adventurous. Thankfully there are so many different ways of cooking styles and cuisines, that help you think outside the box. Myself, I am not a leftover person, I enjoy a different meal every day which makes it more challenging, but also expands my variety.

Hmmm…this mommy says ‘Bruschetta is betta’ Hard not to like veges on cibatta garlic bread. Simple and delish!
Should parents “make” kids eat foods that they don’t like? 
I was raised old school if you don’t eat what is in front of you then you don’t eat at all. I do say force them but hiding it in a delicious way so they don’t know it is there.

How important is letting kids help make the food when it comes to getting them to like it? 
Kids should be involved from the grocery store that way, they are apart of the decision making. Also if it is safe to get involved let them season meats or wash the veggies. Don’t get me wrong, having chicken fingers and french fries is ok as long as you cut the potatoes and use fresh chicken. I am not a militant mom when it comes to healthy eating but just doing my best to make it easier. Kids play a huge part because they are creative and adventurous.

Turkey meatball parmesan sandwhich with fried zucchini 
Any last tips? 
1) Always try and think of what you loved as a kid. 2) Make it fun and a learning experience of other cultures. 3) Think of family members that you might have that cooked your favorites as a child.

Jamie’s two sons

Follow Jamie on IG!
Have you figured out the key to getting your kids to eat healthy?