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The Dinner Bar: Deconstructed Food Wins!

Deconstructed food allows kids to assemble complicated foods and entrees in their own way. The Dinner Bar makes family meals easier and happier!

Kids eating dinner using the Dinner Bar method and deconstructed food

As a mom and child nutritionist, I see families struggle with family dinnertime often. I developed a different approach to serving family meals called The Dinner Bar using deconstructed food.

What is Deconstructed Food?

Basically, deconstructed food disassembles, or takes apart, some of those complicated entrees kids may shy away from. For example, casseroles are tough for some kids to warm up to, but when you separate the ingredients your child may be less intimidated and willing to build his own plate based on the ingredients he wishes to eat.

How Does The Dinner Bar Work? 

The Dinner Bar offers family-friendly, quick, and healthy meals that will please everyone because each individual gets to pick and choose the ingredients for his meal. 

Instead of a regular recipe, The Dinner Bar uses a format of deconstructed food to allow your child more control of what and how much they choose to eat. 

You will love it too, because you get to determine the menu, without the headache of extensive cooking and preparation.

I’ll help make sure your family meals are well-rounded and nutritious by including side dishes to encourage a balanced meal plan

The Dinner Bar will always present a “square meal,” with representation of most food groups. 

Simple, uncomplicated items which are easy to prepare for mom and dad, and easy for children to assemble…and yummy to eat!

Why Start The Dinner Bar? 

As a pediatric dietitian who works with families every day, I am frequently asked for dinner ideas that work for busy families, picky eaters, and a rising sense of health-consciousness.

Families generally do well with breakfast and lunch, but get hung up on dinner. 

Families are REALLY busy, with little time to cook meals, let alone plan, shop, and prepare foods at the end of the day. I know, I have one of those families!

Many families also have children with variable appetites, taste preferences, and nutritional challenges. 

Parents tell me frequently that it is SO HARD to choose a meal that will satisfy every family member’s needs, while healthy, nutritious, not overly processed, and acceptable to their children. 

Plus, recipes sound good, and are good,  but somehow they got lost in the busy-ness of schedules and family life. 

The Dinner Bar is an approach that is different!

What is The Dinner Bar?

Let’s break down the features of The Dinner Bar:

  • The Dinner Bar uses deconstructed food, assembled on a table. Each family member chooses which foods, preferred combinations, and how much they want to eat.  The Dinner Bar presents the components of the main entree as separate, to be chosen and assembled by the eater.  The Dinner Bar features family-friendly dinner entrees that are fun, tasty, and engage members of all ages.
  • The Dinner Bar offers a variety of  ingredients for individuals to “build their own” entree for dinner.  Other meal items such as fruit, a veggie, grains, and milk are available to choose as well, to complete a nutritious meal.
  • The Dinner Bar meals are easy to prepare and are based on simple, uncomplicated ingredients.
  • The Dinner Bar allows children to prepare their own meals, choosing the items they want, and in the amounts they desire, while encouraging a child’s self-regulation and promoting trust between the parent and child.
  • The Dinner Bar allows for variability in appetite and promotes a child’s capability to choose which foods they wish to eat (within what is offered) and the amount they wish to eat.
  • The Dinner Bar offers simple, healthy, fun, and varied solutions to your crazy, busy life.
  • The Dinner Bar is a “healthy smorgasbord”, offered in a “build it yourself” atmosphere, sure to please your family.
  • The Dinner Bar is a healthy alternative to dining out, for those busy family evenings.

Examples of The Dinner Bar & Deconstructed Food

Here are some family meal ideas using The Dinner Bar and deconstructed food:


Easy Cheeseburger Pizza


Chopped Salad

Easy Breezy Paninis

Walking Tacos

Southwest-style Loaded Potatoes

Pasta Primavera

Italian Chicken Kabobs

Remember, each Dinner Bar recipe takes the approach of preparing ingredients and allowing your child to make up his own entree, or plate of food. Each Dinner Bar inspired recipe also includes side dishes so that you round out a balanced meal.

Which recipe will you try?


Honey Whole Wheat Bread in the Zojirushi bread mixer

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