Kids. We love them, but sometimes they can be very frustrating. Especially when it comes to healthy eating. And especially if they are very fussy with their food!
Here are some suggestions to help you encourage children to eat a wider range of food, and make mealtimes a positive experience.
Don’t get discouraged if your child refuses the food. Continually offer it, as studies* have shown that children can take up to 10 attempts before trying a new taste. Make sure you’re casual and positive though; if you stress when they refuse, they may begin to associate negative feelings with the food.
Involve them in food prep
Make your child feel involved and have them join you during meal preparation. Keep them away from sharp knives and the hot stove, and give them tasks to do like chop mushrooms (with a blunt knife), peel carrots, count tomatoes and wash rice. In fact, there’s a lot of age-appropriate jobs they can do in the kitchen with you.
If you give your child a chance to participate in creating their meal, they will be more likely to eat it!
Let them eat what you eat
Kids naturally have a desire to mimic adults, and be part of a group. If you continue to give them separate meals to yours, they are likely to rebel. If you let them eat what you eat, they will feel more included at mealtimes and feel more ‘grown up’ as well.
Eating the same dishes also makes meal planning easier, as you don’t need to cook separate food. There’s also less food wastage.
You may need to change your diet, but that’s not a bad thing. We should be eating healthy food anyway!
While you don’t want to be offering a 5-course dinner for the family, having a range of healthy dishes at the dinner table will help your child to make healthy choices. Think smaller portions and a wider range. Don’t make life hard on yourself by cooking complicated dishes.
Some dishes to consider:
- – Raw vegetable salad platter. It’s easy to prepare and gives your child a wide range of vegetables to choose from.
- – Crumbed fish and crumbed chicken. Give your child the option of two meats, but prepare them the same way to reduce your workload.
- – If you’re making a cooked meal for dinner, set aside some of the vegetables and prepare them a different way. Steam or roast them, and offer with the cooked dish. This will increase your options.
- – Make some simple, nutritious side dishes. Boiled or poached eggs are easy but very healthy. Toast some nuts and offer them on the side, either to eat as is or to sprinkle over their food. A few cubes of cheese such as feta or cheddar can add a bit of flavor to dinner time, as well as fulfill your child’s dairy requirement.
Above all, make mealtimes a relaxed and positive time for you and your kids. Show them how much you enjoy eating a range of food and reinforce how healthy eating can make happy lives. Your kid’s bodies will thank you in the long run!
*Source: ‘The psychology behind your child’s fussy eating’ by Amy Packham, 2016