Sometimes, children need a little bit of extra encouragement to eat their fruits and vegetables, and if you’re cooking for some particularly fussy eaters, your job can be just a little bit more challenging. Here, you’ll find the top seven ways to encourage your children — and the rest of your family — to eat better.
Jane Rylands from kitchen appliance retailer Belling shares her top tips for encouraging your children to eat healthier
In a recent survey, we carried out, 21% of people said that they were unsure how to amend recipes to cater to different tastes and diets. But, one of the simplest ways you can encourage your children to eat healthier and to prepare healthy kid-friendly dinners is to swap some of their favourite ingredients for more nutritious alternatives.
For example, consider using sweet potatoes instead of regular ones to make mash, chips and baked potatoes. Cauliflower also makes a great alternative to potatoes in curries and stews and can be a great substitute for rice. Use a spiraliser to make healthy vegetable versions of noodles and pasta using courgettes and carrots. You can gradually ease the kids into eating these healthier alternatives by mixing them in with your usual noodles.
For dessert, you can swap cream and ice cream for yoghurt — just mix it with berries for a vitamin-packed alternative to a classic ice cream sundae. You can even make your own ice lollies using fresh fruit juice and smoothies.
Children need to eat every 3-4 hours, so you’ll need snacks. For healthy snacks for kids, try swapping sweets and chocolate bars with small packs of raisins or a banana. Chopped up melon is also a great alternative that children will love.
Another simple way you can get healthier foods into your child’s diet is by ‘hiding’ it in other meals. This can be as simple as grating vegetables finely and adding them into pasta sauces or soups, adding fruit purees to their morning porridge, or even mixing them into your usual cake mix — this method is particularly effective in order to make healthy meals for picky kids.
One of my best tips to encourage your children to eat better is by making the food more appealing to them. Try cutting fruit into fun shapes, or making pictures using vegetables.
To encourage fussy eaters to try new things, consider having them rate their vegetables during each meal. This way, you can keep track of what they do like so you can make more of it. You could even try dedicating your weekly meals to a different fruit or vegetable, working together to come up with creative recipes that incorporate that week’s ingredient. You can then vote on your favourite meals at the end of the month so you can make them again in the future.
When doing your weekly food shop, bring your kids and ask them to select which fruits and vegetables they want this week. This will let you know which foods they do like, and they’ll be more likely to eat them if they know that they’ve chosen it themselves. This is also a great way to slowly introduce new foods to them
To get kids excited about eating healthy foods, you could try growing your own fruits and vegetables at home. This is both more environmentally friendly and can help to cut the cost of your weekly shop. Plus, your little ones will be more likely to eat the food they’ve worked hard to grow with you.
If you don’t have a garden or growing your own produce would be difficult, why not take the kids fruit picking? It’ll give you the opportunity to talk about where their food comes from, and they’ll enjoy eating them after they’ve had a fun day out gathering them all.
Try asking children to lend a helping hand when you’re preparing vegetables for dinner. If they’re too young to hold a knife, ask them to pass you certain vegetables as you’re chopping. Just like growing your own food, knowing you’ve both worked hard to prepare the meal together will encourage your children to eat better. Just holding the food in their hands for a while can increase their familiarity with different types of fruits and vegetables, and they may be less reluctant to try them.
Allowing children to assemble their own plates or “build it yourself” meals such as fajitas and sandwiches can also work really well! Simply set out a selection of healthy options and let your kids do the rest.
To encourage your children to make these kinds of decisions on their own, reward healthy behaviours with praise. This could be as simple as verbal praise, or you could make a healthy eating rewards chart. For particularly fussy eaters, reward them with a point every time they eat a full serving of vegetables. When they reach a certain number of points, celebrate with a fun family day out to keep the behaviour going.
By following these seven simple tips, you can easily encourage your whole family to make healthier food choices.