With these simple tips, you can get youngsters to eat well without turning mealtimes into a warfare.
Have little ones who are keen on junk food? Encouraging kids to eat healthily can be an ongoing battle, especially if you have a busy schedule.
But switching them to a nutritious diet can have an extreme impact on your child’s health as well as help them maintain a healthy weight, avoid certain health issues, steady their mood and improve their minds.
Here, with these simple tips, you can get youngsters to eat well without turning mealtimes into warfare.
- Be sensible about sides. Fries, noodles, chips, onion rings and biscuits are just some of the sides that can swiftly pile on the calories. Better choices include side salads, corn on the cob, apple slices, baked potato and grilled veg.
If they insist on fries, you can make your own healthy versions very easily, or if time is of the essence, swap regular fries for McCain sweet potato fries. They can be ready in roughly 20 minutes and are great as a little treat once in a while.
- Scheduled meals. It’s important for little ones to eat every three to four hours. This includes three meals, two snacks and plenty of liquids. When planning daily meals, be sure to factor this into your child’s diet, as they’ll be a lot less irritable because they won’t be over-hungry.
If you’re out and about, store snacks like yoghurt, fruit, water and carrots in a cool bag so there’s no temptation to reach for fast food.
- Plan mealtimes. If you don’t fancy planning a weekly menu, start by organising meals a couple of days at a time. Meals should be balanced – include wholegrain rice, pasta, fruit or veg as well as protein like cheese, beans or lean meat. You could make a nutritious soup or a mild chilli ahead of time and freeze. Then at dinnertime, serve with wholegrain bread together with a few slices of apple or melon for pudding.
- Don’t be a double chef. Many parents end up making two dinners – one their child likes and one their other half likes. That gets exhausting. Instead, prepare one meal for everyone in the family and let the kids pick and choose what they want. It’s a known fact that little ones copy what their parents do. So, hopefully they’ll eat what you serve them!
- Slip in some healthier foods. You can easily disguise the taste of more nutritious foods by sneaking more vegetables in kids’ meals. Include more in chicken soup, for example, or mash up carrots with sweet potato. Alternatively, add spinach into a chocolate and banana smoothie.
- Do more home cooking. Takeaway and restaurant food contain a lot more added sugar and unhealthy fat than home-cooked meals. So, try and cook more meals at home, as it can have a profound effect on your child’s health. Consider making large batches, as you’ll probably find you’ll make enough to feed the entire family for a whole week.
- Don’t force-feed. Bite your tongue before you tell your kids to finish their vegetables. By not commenting on what or how much your children are eating, you may find they end up eating everything they’re served – including their greens.
- Be creative. Have some fun with your children. Make smiley-face pancakes and give food silly names – for example, call broccoli ‘tiny tasty treetops’ or green beans ‘silly dilly green beans’. You can also turn toast into heart and star shapes using cookie cutters.
- Involve the kids. When out food shopping, get the kids looking out for the items on your shopping list. By doing this, you’ll teach them about the different foods and how to read the labels.
- Dips. If you have a picky eater who refuses to try vegetables, consider using condiments and dips. Cut a carrot into thin slices and get them dipping it into a yoghurt-based dressing, hummus or salsa. This is a tried-and-tested way of getting little ones to eat their veg.
- Get the kids making meals. Chances are, if your children become involved in meal preparation, they’ll be more interested in eating what they’ve made. As mentioned above, first get them choosing the foods in the supermarket with you. The next step is to get them cooking (if they’re old enough, that is).
They can help cut up the veg and mix into a stir-fry or soup. Have them help make blueberry muffins, fajitas, sandwiches and pizzas. Get them mashing potatoes. Even toddlers can sit in their high-chair and mix things up in a bowl or play with child-friendly kitchen utensils.
- Don’t introduce new foods too fast. Little ones are naturally afraid of new foods. It’s worth telling your children that they need to get used to a flavour before they’ll like it.
When they’re old enough to understand, use names of their favourite super heroes to encourage them to eat veg. For example, you could say Spider-Man eats broccoli to keep him big and strong, or that Peppa Pig eats carrots to help her grow.
By encouraging your children to eat nutritious, wholesome dishes, the simpler it will be for them to build a healthy relationship with food that will last a lifetime. With these tips, you’ll inspire healthy eating habits without turning mealtimes into a fight, so your kids grow up into healthy, self-assured grown-ups.