Being a parent can be difficult, especially at mealtimes.
Children can be very fussy when it comes to trying new foods, especially those of a healthy, nutritional value. If it’s green, it must be mean! However, there are ways we can still encourage our children to eat healthily, and here some ideas in how to do it.
1. Give informed advice
If it isn’t made from chocolate, your children may turn their noses up at what you put in front of them. However, a little education goes a long way. Explain to your child in fun and creative ways why choosing foods of nutritional value are better than eating junk food. Let them know what foods will make them better at sports. Tell them how a healthy breakfast is ideal for boosting their brain cells. We often tell our children to do something without explanation, so start as early as you can with good parental advice.
2. Place healthy food in reach
Whenever you bake cookies, you can guarantee your child will not be too far away, eager for a tasty snack. Instead, have healthy foods placed around the house, such as a fruit bowl on the table, so when they are hungry, they will be tempted by the more healthy choice on offer.
3. Grow your food
Most children hate vegetables. However, if they have been given the opportunity to grow their own, they might take ownership of the food and begin to eat it.
4. Don’t be bossy
The more you order your child to eat that plate of broccoli, the less likely they are going to do it. Instead, consider the foods your child enjoys and add to them to make a healthier option. For example, have a chocolate dip with the strawberries, or have a look at Healthy But Smart’s list of food processors, for those delicious fruit smoothies.
5. Prepare a buffet
Children enjoy choice, so have a range of foods on offer. From pasta shapes to cheese rolls, choose food that looks and tastes good, with that all important nutritional value.
6. Take it slow
Don’t introduce too many new foods quickly. Perhaps try something different each week. If they don’t eat it, tell them that sometimes taste buds take a while to get used to something. That gives you the opportunity to return to that food down the line, giving your child a fun reason to see if they like it better.
7. A spoonful of sugar
We all know too much sugar can be bad for us. However, to misquote Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar can help the broccoli go down. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the food your child finds disagreeable, and it may be easier for them to eat.
8. Make eating fun
Be creative with your children’s foods. Give the peas silly names, and make fun patterns on the plate. Use cookie cutters to make funny food shapes. Make a pizza together, letting your child design the food on the base, such as a smiley face or a rocket ship. The more fun they have in cooking with you, the more likely they are to eat what they have created.
9. Allow for treats
Don’t be so health conscious that your child never gets to eat what their friends are. The occasional ice cream, chocolate, and popcorn are fine. Everything needs to be done in moderation, but a world without candy floss is a very boring one.
10. Be a good role model
Practice what you preach. Don’t give your child a plate of broccoli while you tuck into a burger. Your child looks at you for a good example, so be mindful of your own eating habits.
11. Let your kids plan dinner
As dodgy as this sounds, giving your children control over planning one mealtime a week may provide surprising results. Ask them to think about a healthy menu and put options in front of them. As you go shopping, as stressful as it can be, let them pick the foods they want for their chosen mealtime. If all goes wrong and they insist on french fries with chocolate, go for it, with the rule that they must eat your food choices on the other days of the week
12. Talk to your doctor
If you have concerns about your child’s eating habits, or you are considering putting them on a diet, talk to a doctor first. Whether you think your child is too fat or thin, it is always better to seek expert advice.
Good luck parents!