Do tomatoes equal tantrums? Peas cause pouts? Meal times can become a battle ground, so we’ve put together our tips to help your children enjoy a healthy diet – without the drama.
Avocadoes, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, lettuce – as every parent knows, getting kids to eat certain foods can be a challenge. But how do you encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with food and to try new flavours?
We’ve all known the boy who wouldn’t eat anything except chicken nuggets for months, the girl obsessed with prawns and the many, many children who wouldn’t go near anything green. Meal times can become a huge battle if you’re not careful and instead of enjoying the variety of foods they are presented with, children can use food to manipulate their parents and misbehave.
We all worry about a balanced diet. “There is so much contradictory information in the media about nutrition that it’s no wonder we’re all a little stressed and confused about what to feed our families.
It seems almost each week we’re told something else we should be eating more of, or should cut down on,” says Registered Nutritionist and founder of Happy Eaters, Sam Perkins. “Some of these reports are valuable, especially when related to disease prevention or treating medical conditions. However it does, in my opinion, mean we sometimes get ‘bogged down’ with irrelevant advice and can neglect more basic food issues.”
“With very young children, aim for five ‘tastes’ of different foods each day.”
Mix it up
With the press bombarding us with information about wonder foods that will cure all ills on the one hand, and horror stories about saturated fat, sugar and processed meats on the other, how do you ensure your children have a good diet that will build a basis for their life-long health?
The old phrase “everything in moderation and nothing to excess” is a good stand-by. Think about how much your child should be eating at each meal, too. “With children, a ‘portion’ of fruit or vegetables is not the same as for adults,” explains Sam. “With very young children, aim for five ‘tastes’ of different foods each day. As they get older, a good guide is that a portion is about the size of their fist.”
Remember that different colours equal different vitamins, so when planning a meal, think colour as much as flavour. So a meal with peas, broccoli and cabbage is not as good as one with peas, sweet potato, tomato and yellow peppers. You can also avoid faddy eating by thinking cleverly. “Try the same food in a different form – if they dislike raw carrots, try them cooked and vice versa,” suggests Sam. “Children’s likes and dislikes change a lot and it is really important to keep trying foods they may have previously rejected, as they may surprise you! Also, if your friends’ kids love a food yours hate, make it for supper and invite them. Peer pressure is often very useful.”
“Creating food from scratch really helps to take away the fear children have about unfamiliar foods.”
Get the kids to help you cook. “Creating food from scratch really helps to take away the fear children have about unfamiliar foods,” says Sam. Finally, lead by example. If your children see you making poor food choices, they will think this is ‘normal.’ Try to always sit down to a family meal together where you share stories as well as the food. This makes it a social occasion, takes the emphasis off what they are eating – and creates lifelong healthy eating habits.
If you would like to discuss your child’s nutrition with Sam, contact Happy Eaters at www.happyeaters.co.uk
The ABC of Vitamins
A For: immune system, eyes & skin. Found in: cheese, eggs, yoghurt, low-fat spreads
B For: iron, nervous system, protein absorption. Found in: meat & poultry, fish, bread & whole cereals, rice, dairy products, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, yeast extract.
C For: cells, tissue & organs. Found in:oranges, red & green peppers, green veg, strawberries & blackcurrants.
D For: healthy bones & teeth. Found in: oily fish, eggs, fortified spreads & breakfast cereals, powdered milk.
E For: protecting cell membranes. Found in: plant oils (soya, corn & olive), nuts & seeds, wheat germ, cereals
K For: healthy blood clotting & bones. Found in: green leafy vegetables, oils, cereals, meat & dairy.
Don’t forget to get: Calcium for strong bones & teeth, plus Iron for healthy red blood cells.