I have to admit something here, something I’m very proud off, but also don’t share around too often as I don’t want to make other people unnecessarily guilty: my older two kids actually eat really well. Not only have they got excellent appetites and have done their whole infant lives, but they will actually eat quite a large range of fruit and vegetables. They even like our great selection of canapés! To be honest, it costs be an arm and a leg to replenish the fruit bowl each week. Sorry, I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad. I know that a lot of my friends really struggle to get their kids to eat anything remotely green and my heart goes out to them.
My youngest on the other hand! Yikes! To be fair, I can get fruit into her, so long as it is prepared to her exacting standards, but trying to get a vegetable between her lips is like going into battle. She actually eats play sand with more gusto!
According to the UK government’s health surgery of 2017, only 18% of children aged 5-15 age their recommended failing intake of five fruit or vegetables a day. Only 29% of adults actually meet the target and the percentage lowers for 16-24 year olds. So, regardless of what age we are, there’s always room to improve what we put into our bodies.
So, with the summer holidays coming up, I grit my teeth and set to that assault against my age old enemy: my child’s attitude to healthy food. With my younger child, the most progress I have made has been when attempting to change her attitude, rather that force her to eat her greens, so I always try and approach things from that angle.
Having asked around my friends and family, I have complied a few ideas to encourage better eating habits with my family and this is what I share with you.
Positive Peer Pressure
This has been a huge epiphany for me. With my second child, at the age of two he would have the most monumental tantrums and refuse his breakfast porridge. He’d be really hungry and simply scream, leading to incredible stress for both of us.
Then it hit me! He was pointing at his big brother the whole time. So, I gave him the same cereal and boom! Silent, happy, healthy eating. Younger kids always want to be like the older ones, so if you are fortunate to have more than one child, try and give them the same, healthy food and see if it helps the younger one aspire to copy their elders.
I did the same with my youngest. We always eat a meal around the table for dinner time and she always does better eating healthy food when she can see her plate matches her big brothers’. I even do this with snacks, seating them around a little kids table and making sure there are healthy snacks on each plate. Once I even managed to get raisins into her this way!
Grow Your Own
We are attempting to grow our own strawberries this summer. The kids are really enjoying going to check each day to see which ones are nice and red and ready to pick. It’s certainly educating them on where food comes from and how long it takes to grow food. It means I can talk to them about how its important not to waste food either.
Make Eating an Experience
Thinking of creative ways to make eating into a game works wonders. There are loads of great ideas online. It can be really simple. One that works well for my family is “dipping”. I will cut up carrot, cucumber and pepper and choose a sweet hummus like roasted red pepper. Even my toddler enjoys choosing a salad stick and dipping it into the sauce. It creates the illusion of choice and has her focus on the task rather than the taste of the food. It’s a bit like eating canapés rather than trying to force a huge plate of food at them.
A fruit buffet is another idea. Chop up a selection of fruits and place the in separate pots. Have the kids spoon out their own proportions on to their own plates. Again, you are giving them the illusion of choice.
Cook Your Own
In the next few weeks we are going to be selecting our best recipes and encouraging you to cook with your kids over the summer. It’s such a joy to cook with my kids. I can’t do it all the time, but try and do it once a month at the weekend when we aren’t got as much going on. I always try and make it something that they assemble (my kids are still too young to go near gas hobs or the oven), but they love it. They can choose the vegetables to put in and I put it into the oven for them. Sometimes, it does require me to chop up the vegetables for them, so there is a lot of preparation involved.
So make sure you check back to our website to find some ideas to help this summer. Yes, we are even going to have a selection of kid-friendly canapés for you to make! Happy eating!