Nick Coffer explains how you can get your fussy eaters on the right track with healthy food.
There is simply no escaping the fact that as parents, we are the foundation for our child’s food discoveries and experiences. It’s not only our job to introduce them to good nutrition but to be a role model through our own eating habits. However, with life being non-stop and there seemingly never enough time in the day, all of that can easily go out of the window – sometimes making it tricky to ensure our little ones are eating their greens.
Everything from shopping to those moments playing ‘chef’ can shape your child’s attitude and if they learn to enjoy fruit and veg now, it could inspire a lifetime of healthy eating.
Firstly, don’t stress (easier said than done, I know)
No child is going to eat every kind of fruit and veg under the sun – nor would any adult – but we don’t generally label adults as fussy because of it. Even if your children only enjoy one or two specific fruits or vegetables, that’s still a lot better than nothing, so embrace their choice and make things using their favourites. Their tastes will develop as they get older.
Help your children to connect with where their fruit and veg comes from
Take them shopping with you and let them pick out the things they like the look of. Better still, grow some of your own in your back garden. When youngsters know what they’re eating – and where it comes from – they are always more likely to eat it.
Get your children into the kitchen with you
Let them join in with the preparation. A mixture of self-pride and curiosity means they are much more likely to eat food they have been involved in preparing. An easy recipe like Viva Strawberries’ Fruit Kebabs with Strawberry Milk is perfect for kids to try.
Whilst no-one would advocate “hiding” fruit and veg as a solution, there are still some great ways of making them less-visible. Simple savoury muffins can take all manner of fillings, as can scones – and both are very easy to make at home. Also, a good tomato pasta sauce base (just one onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and a tin of chopped tomatoes) is a great thing to chuck almost any vegetables into.
Enjoy home-made cakes and sweet things!
Home-made cakes and treats are good – you know exactly what’s in them, there are no nasty additives and most importantly, children love cake. A simple Victoria sponge, topped with some whipped cream and strawberries is a great way of getting fruit into your children’s diets. It doesn’t matter that the strawberries are on a cake – they are still strawberries, they still contain wonderful goodness and are still being eaten by your children.
Dips are a great way of making vegetables more fun. There is just something fun about dipping and scooping. For example, children can really enjoy hummus served with carrot or cucumber sticks.
Your little ones are always more likely to eat a wider variety of things when they are hungry. If you offer them a mid-morning snack or after-school snack, offer them chopped fruit in a bowl, or vegetable batons to nibble.
Set an example
It’s important to try and be a role model to your children as you are the one they are always learning from. If they see you enjoying fruit and veg without fuss, they will often try to emulate that. Parents with a healthy attitude around food are more likely to have children who share the same healthy attitude, whereas parents who are faddy and often switching between diets may be giving their children the wrong message.
All children love a milkshake so blitz up some fresh ones at home. Or for extra cold refreshment, blitz up a mix of frozen red fruit (strawberries, blackberries and raspberries) and pour in some fresh yogurt and a drizzle of honey for some instant frozen yoghurt.
Finally, try to ignore their attempts to wind you up
It is important to steer clear of the games and control battles which kids can get involved in around food. It’s obvious why – they know how important we think it is for them to be well-fed and they know how wound up we can get about it. Just ignore the games, turn a blind eye (no matter how counter intuitive that will feel) and you may be surprised how quickly they get bored of the game and turn their attention to other things – such as actually eating!