I have four kiddos, and four very different eaters, both in terms of what they like, how often they eat, and what they avoid. I have one vegetarian, one who is lactose intolerant and also avoids eating too much gluten, one >em>very fussy eater and a toddler who changes his mind from day to day of what he will or won’t eat!
It’s interesting how different kids can be, they were all weaned in more or less the same way, a mix of homemade purees and baby-led weaning. Their tastes have changed and evolved over the years. I know from experience, that trying to force kids to eat things they don’t want will never, ever pay off. While I encourage them to try new things, to be adventurous, to eat a good variety of fruit and veg, and to make healthy choices, I would never force them to eat something that they don’t want to/don’t like.
Here are a few tips that I have found help…
* Get them involved. From as soon as they are big enough to sit on the kitchen side, I have mine helping in the kitchen. Including them in the meal preparation is a great way for them to feel in control of what we eat as a family.
* Make it fun If you’re struggling to get your kiddo to eat much fruit/veg, make it colourful – encourage them to eat a rainbow every day, creating a fun chart they can tick off for every different colour food they eat!
* Offer choices While I don’t want to have to cook five different meals every day, I usually try to cook meals I can incorporate something everyone likes into… perhaps by cooking three or four different veggies to go with a meal, so everyone can pick the ones they like – making them feel like they are in control, while still ensuring they get some veg in! Deconstructed salad is great for kids, so they can make their own, customised side salads too.
* Bake your own – I prefer to bake our own biscuits and cakes for snacks or desserts. It’s a great way to cut down on added sugar and preservatives. Store bought treats are packed full of sugar, when we bake at home we often switch out refined sugar for something like coconut sugar or agave, or if we’re using normal sugar I find the amount can easily be cut in half for most recipes.
* The ‘one bite’/try something new rule – For my pickiest eater, I ask her to try one new food each week. It can be her choice of what it is – and I will cook it a few times, and just ask that she tries at least one bite each time. There is no pressure on her to eat all of it if she doesn’t like it, but it does work well to actually get her to try something new.
Families online have published a great infographic, with 16 ways to encourage healthy eating in your kiddos. There are some great ideas that I’m sure will help get your little ones eating more healthy!