Fussy eating can be a common trait in children and is often the cause of much frustration come dinner-time. Recent research conducted by Ragu Hidden Vegetables found that 73% of parents surveyed said that their kids hate eating vegetables, including 35% who don’t the like the taste. Many parents have also admitted to crafty tactics in order to get their kids to eat more vegetables.
32% have attempted to disguise vegetables by mixing them in with other foods, 26% with sauces and condiment, while 19% have sprinkled grated cheese over the top to hide the taste. A number of white lies have also been told in the name of healthy eating, such as 31% of parents telling their children carrots will ‘help them see in the dark’.
Current government recommendation suggests that children should consume at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Obesity is still an ever-present danger, with 31% of boys and 29% of girls between the ages of 2 to 15 years affected by it. This trend has been linked with a growing consumption of high-calorie food and drinks, meaning that we need to encourage children more than ever to consume fruits and vegetables. Award-winning dietician and TV nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton commented: ‘Parents face an every-day battle getting their kids to eat fruit and particularly vegetables – I’ve been there myself with my two children. Across the UK, the intake of fruit and vegetables, amongst children, has flatlined at less than 3 portions a day.’
Despite many parental tactics failing in the past, there are a number of proven ways to help reduce fussy eating and get your kids to eat healthier.
Eating as a family
One of the best ways to get your kids to be less fussy with their food is by eating as a family. Sometimes this is difficult if you and your partner both work full-time but whenever there is a window of opportunity, take it. Eat the same food as your child, one of the key ways children learn to eat new foods is by copying and watching their parents and family members eat.
Try to avoid as many distractions as possible such as TV, pets and games, as you want your child to concentrate on their food. Additionally, having pets around the dinner table is always a perfect way for kids to secretly dispose of unwanted food!
By making positive comments about the food you’re eating, your children will usually follow suit. As a role model to your children, it’s important to set the right example and through this they should be more willing to try the food. It’s also vital to praise them when they eat well as they will respond to it positively.
Get active with your food
Encouraging them to get active with their food will also help significantly. Involve them in shopping trips and get them to help you pick out what you’re having for your next meal. Even simple acts such as setting the table will help their approach to eating, and ensure a positive attitude to food and all mealtimes.
Cook with them
Of course, a great way to get them involved is through cooking. With simple cooking and food preparation, they’ll see a new side to the food they’re eating. Even if it’s something you know they won’t eat, let them help you with it as it will peak their curiosity and make it more likely they will try the food next time.
An effective method of getting your kids to eat healthier is to buy food products that contain a number of their daily vegetable and/or fruit requirements. Often common in sauces, a perfect example of this is Ragu Hidden Vegetables – containing one and a half of the daily amount necessary, it’s a great way to get most of their vegetables without them even knowing.