Yes, It Is Hard Sometimes
Firstly, you need to face the fact that getting children to give up their unhealthy snacks is going to be tricky sometimes, and that you will need to guide them through choosing healthy foods. Temper tantrums will blow over, stubborn children will eventually turn to curiosity, and your children will enjoy eating well. But you must be patient with them or all your hard work will have no effect. Hopefully this guide can start you off on how to encourage your children to eat more healthily and enjoy the resulting health benefits.
Make it Fun
Any way you do it, adding a little fun to healthy food can make all the difference. Cutting sandwiches into interesting shapes, trying new fruits you've never seen before, or combining unusual flavours- any way you do it is fine! If you can show children that food isn't just boring fuel, they will begin to be less picky, because food is now exciting!
Taste the Rainbow
A variety of colours means a variety of nutrients. Aim to combine at least two different colours of fruit or vegetable in your meals. Kids are very perceptive of colour; if you present them with chicken breast, cauliflower and mashed potatoes, it looks dull and unappetising. However, if you serve broccoli, carrots, red pepper and sweetcorn, the plate lights up and the dish is ultimately more fun to eat.
Get Them Involved
While some of you will no doubt blanch at the thought of having your little darlings running around your kitchen, there is no need to worry; they needn't do anything unsafe. Start small and set your children to work with simple tasks. Children of 3-5 can use a blunt butter knife to chop tomatoes, cucumber or other soft foods, rip up lettuce and help to wash vegetables. Older children can help chop or peel foods, and put them into pans for you. Having food presented ready-made takes away some of the interest, so get your children involved in making the food they are going to eat.
Grow your Own
Although a full vegetable garden and fruit tree plot does sound good, most of us don't have the time, money or space to grow much of our produce. The good news is that many ways of growing your own are actually very simple and don't require much more than some compost and a window sill. Fill a yoghurt pot half-full of compost, then have your child scoop out the inside of a tomato into the pot. Help them cover it with another inch of compost, then put it on the window sill. It will need watering every few days, a process which children enjoy helping with. Even something a simple as growing cress can get children interested and the anticipation of growing your own means they are more likely to eat it at the end.
Try Not to Nag
You've served your child a colourful, exciting meal and still they sit there and won't eat it. The temptation is to demand that they 'Eat the vegetables!'. Don't do this. By nagging your children, you will drive them into rebelling against you out of pride. Say once, casually, that you would like them to eat their vegetables, please. If they do not, simply remove their plate at the end of the meal and make no comment. They will quickly learn that vegetables fill you up, and that having half your dinner taken away is no fun at all.
There are Items Designed to Help You
Eat-well plates and portion cups can help you on your way. A child can help you pour raisins into a cup used to measure fruit and veg portions, and will learn how much a portion actually is. Similarly, eat well plates will show children, in an easy to understand format, how much of each food group they should be eating.
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