Some strategies to get children eating:
1. The best way to get your children to become healthy eaters is to ensure you are a ‘healthy eater’.
2. Involve your children in the cooking process. Some of the soft vegetables are easy to cut with a butter knife. For example mushrooms, capsicum, snow peas and beans.
3. Only offer small amounts on the plate. If you are really trying to introduce a ‘disliked’ vegetable maybe just start by them having it on their plate. Baby steps!
4. Look at your routine, are the children filling up on afternoon tea and snacks. When the 4.30 hunger strikes and dinner is not ready, Jessica Seinfeld suggests offering vegetable sticks. Her book Deceptively Delicious has some wonderful recipes and strategies. I offer my children a cup of ‘frozen peas’, for some reason they think this is special because they are frozen.
5. Keep offering. I know how hard this is because we are all so busy and there is nothing more frustrating and heartbreaking than having a meal you have lovingly cooked pushed away. Or what my Miss 2 year old does is looks in the bowl and yells “YUK”!!! But I keep trying and I know that her sister Miss nearly 4 is a wonderful eater, so it is just a phase.
6. It can be a long process of getting them to change but if you are consistent and have clear expectations of what you want them to eat, they will do it.
7. Create the atmosphere as pleasant as possible. Ask the children to put a table cloth on, set the table, arrange some flowers, even light a candle, put some lovely background music. Try not to turn dinner into a screaming match, ignore behaviour that can be ignored. Encourage the positive behaviour.
When to get help? If you a worried about your child not eating enough or the food battles are getting too much there is help out there. I once had a little girl in my class that would only drink apple juice (not diluted), nearly 2L a day and over 250g of ham. The sugar content in the apple juice was enough to cause concern. This had gone on for 6 months before her mum had decided to put her into daycare to see if she could get some help. After a month she was eating normally. She was almost at the point where the doctors were going to admit her into hospital. She had turned the food into a power struggle, which as you can understand this is not something we ever want our children to associate food with power. So please speak to your doctor if you are concerned. If you still feel this hasn’t satisfied your worries then speak to a child psychologist. The Triple P parenting program is also a good way to help with some strategies.
I will post some other great kid friendly food hints and recipes soon…..