We all strive to have kids who like a wide variety of healthy foods but the annoying reality is that most children love ‘junk’ type food and it can be a struggle to get them to try something new or ‘healthy’. Mealtimes see parents turning into nags with children enduring rather than enjoying, and so the daily battle continues. How can we break this cycle?
Engagement: Get your children involved; give them a euro and get them to spend it choosing a fruit or vegetable they wish to try that week. Have them help you with the preparation; they can then do the ‘PR’ with the rest of the family.
Borrow a foodie friend: if you can find one of their friends who eats everything, ask them over for a play date and then try out a new food; hopefully the peer pressure will work to your advantage.
Play with your food: This is especially good for younger children, as it can stimulate their interest in different foods. Engage all their senses - listen to the carrot crunch, smell that mandarin, see the inside of a kiwi, and see how big your teeth marks will be in the apple. Soon they’ll be eating away with no need to force or bribe them!
Go for the Oscar! Parents are the best role models; if they don’t see you eating and enjoying your fruit and veg how do you expect them to do the same? As they say in Hollywood, you might have to ‘fake it to make it’! So start eating and tasting your food with enjoyment, and don’t forget to describe how good it tastes. Remember kids might not always eat certain foods, but they are always watching to see if you do.
It can be a battle but don’t let it be a battleground. Constant stress and nagging at mealtimes is counterproductive and will do no one any good. It’s time to get them involved in the buying and preparing of meals and snacks, offer them a healthy choice at mealtime, and be a good role model for eating healthily. Hopefully some day it will all come together and then you can ‘loan out’ your child as a good role model!
By Cara Cunningham, community dietitian. For more information on diet and nutrition, please contact the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster on (044 ) 9353220 or [email protected].