When I was pregnant with my son, I had an image of all the incredibly healthy meals I would prepare for him; how he would devour them with such joy. Nothing prepared me for the reality of the situation…
Throwing vegetables half way across the room, refusing to try anything new and the absolute melt downs when vegetables were placed on his plate. Despite my background in naturopathy, and spending years advising people how to eat well, my son has proven to be the most rewarding challenge. I am sharing with you my top 10 guidelines to hopefully help your child eat better.
Be a role model
Children learn the most by the people around them, so it is important for you to make healthy food choices. I always comment on how “delicious” a vegetable is as I am eating it, this tends to promote curiosity in my son, which leads him to think he is missing out and quite often he decides to try it.
Always serve vegetables on their plate
My son would often throw the vegetables off his plate onto mine saying “not this one”. I found that placing vegetables on his plate consistently at every meal promoted a sense of familiarity and acceptance. Getting children to try new food is not easy, they usually need to taste a food 12 times before they become familiar with it and start to enjoy it. Start off with little tastes, not the entire piece.
Add healthy fats to every meal
Children need fat in their diet especially for optimal brain and nervous system development. It is an essential nutrient crucial to overall good health and vitality. The key is to eat healthy fat, which assist in sustaining good energy levels, as well as keeping children fuller for longer. Avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds, fish, chia seeds are all great sources of healthy fats. Avoid unhealthy trans fats found in processed foods such as cookies, chips and margarine. I also avoid low fat yogurt, milk and cheese as it is usually filled with sugar.
Avoid fried food
I am yet to find a child or an adult that doesn’t like hot fried chips. Baking fish and potatoes in the oven can make them crispy and taste just as good as store bought fish and chips.
Don’t ban foods
I don’t ban any particular food, I aim to limit its consumption. I find this most effective by not allowing junk food to enter our house. It is known as the ‘occassional’ food, when we go out and share an ice-cream or a slice of cake. I have also created an ebook on refined sugar free treats for children, which includes 20 recipes for simple, nutritious and tasty treats for children.
Blend it / juice it or just simply hide it
My son went through a severe aversion to all things green, which meant I had to become a little more creative. Juicing, blending and hiding the vegetables in pasta sauces, homemade sausage rolls, pies and lasagna became my greatest ally.
Preparation, preparation, preparation!!
This is crucial in preparing and maintaining healthy meals. Having a weekly meal plan to follow gives you the time to prepare and prevent last minute poor food choices. It also allows you to shop within a budget and limits food wastage.
Eating a breakfast which is high in protein, good fats and fibre promotes better energy levels and concentration in children. Aim to avoid the sugar laden highly processed cereals. Instead start the day with a homemade granola, avocado on toast, boiled egg with avocado, yogurt with nuts and seeds, bacon and eggs or a homemade healthy breakfast muffin.
Getting your junior master chefs involved in the kitchen is a great way to get them excited about what they are eating. Letting them become involved in the preparation of the food, gathering fresh herbs from the garden, picking the foods at the grocery store, snipping the herbs with child friendly scissors, cracking eggs, mixing and stirring are all positive ways to make meal times fun.
Avoid letting children fill up on snacks
Otherwise, when it comes to meal times, they won’t be hungry. If a child is hungry, you have a much better chance of getting him or her to eat something healthy.