Getting kids to eat and sleep well - two such challenging parts of parenting!
If you need some inspiration, at Parents Guide we have your back...
Here are some fun (and sneaky!) ways to inject some fun into your five a day, and hopefully make it less of a chore to persuade your kids to eat their fruit and veg.
1. Ask for their help
For young kids especially, it can be a thrill to be given the responsibility to help prepare a recipe. You might be surprised what they are willing to eat if they have invested time and energy preparing it. So next time you are making salad, or chopping veg for a recipe, or fruit for smoothies, find a suitable knife and get them to help. It doesn’t work every time, but it often gets them interested and improves their familiarity with the foods you want them to eat more of.
2. Present food differently
If you normally put the crunchy pepper and carrot slices on the side of the plate, try standing them up in a little cup. If you often serve cucumber in chunks, try ‘peeling’ it into ribbons. Sometimes just changing up the way food is presented can inspire your kids to dig in.
3. Get artistic!
You can occasionally make mealtimes into a more creative process by allowing your child to design their plate. Offer sandwiches alongside cookie cutters and colourful raw veg and see what pictures you can make together. Offer handfuls of different veg and a plain pizza, and ask your child to make a ‘pizza face.’
4. Change your environment
Sometimes routine in counterproductive. You cook the same food and serve it in the same way on the same table and your child makes the same fuss about not wanting to eat their veg. Try something different to see what the reaction is. Lay a rug in the back yard and make lunch into a picnic, or pop meals into tupper ware and head down to the ocean. Get tempting bowls of chopped fruit and veg out first to get some goodness into them while they are excited about the picnic. Keeping things fresh can distract fussy kids from their normal concerns and get them eating.
5. Create 'treats'
Fruity treats Ice Poles are often seen by kids as a treat, whereas fruit often isn’t. Choose a variety of colourful fruits and blend them separately with yogurt then freeze in lolly moulds for creamy, colourful treats that are super healthy. Try making jelly with the addition of sliced fruits hiding inside. Still a treat, but still full of goodness. Make ‘thick shakes’ by freezing plain yogurt in ice cube trays then blending with fresh fruit (and a little apple juice if it needs sweetening up) and serving in a fancy cup with a straw. Yum!
6. Present three or four veg options with meals, and the deal is choose which two / three they eat
Creating a situation where your child can choose, means they feel more empowered, the element of compromise is there and you get some veggies down them too - win win!
7. Hide and seek
If all else fails, add secret goodness to meals. When you are cooking anything involving a sauce, e.g. pasta sauces, curry, pie filling and so on, grate in some extra veg. Sweet potato is a good option as it is not strongly flavoured, is packed full of nutrients and hides itself well. Carrot and courgette are also perfect, but really most veg can be grated and cooked down until even the fussiest children won’t be able to pick them out.
For really, really fussy eaters, we feel your pain! If you are concerned about the nutritional intake of your child then a visit to your GP is a great idea. Some parents (for their sanity) prefer to assess their child's diet across a week instead of each day.
8. Reverse psychology - it's worth a try!
As you pop your child's healthy wholesome, lovingly cooked meal down, look them in the eye and tell them in all seriousness, 'whatever you do DO NOT eat your vegetables, I am so scared they will make you too strong and powerful' - keep up the clamour until they do actually eat them and then feel their muscles and tell them how strong they are!
Good luck and happy cooking!