How can parents help:
- Have a positive attitude towards healthy food: Children love to do what their parents do that is apparent from very early on, just as they love to play with pots and pans because their parents use them, the same goes for eating. If you love eating healthy food and speak positively about new food experiences this will influence and inspire your child. They will go on that journey with you because they trust you and are just excited to be doing the same thing as the people they love most in the world. Be your child’s nutrition role model!
- Bury own food bias: Perhaps your child’s lack of variety stems from your own. Just because you cannot stand brussels sprouts does not mean you should share that information with them, refer to my last point. Go one step further and let your child see you trying new foods even if you haven’t liked them in the past, it’s good for your health as well!
- Make the food fun: Get them excited about food, make their sandwiches in shapes, make funny faces on your child’s plate with fruits & veggies. Making food fun is a great way to inspire your child to be adventurous and creative.
- Involve your child: With wee ones put them in their high chair and give them a few veggies or pot and a ladle and include them in the making of their food. They just want to be included, so if you have fun in the kitchen so will they and they will positively associate eating healthy to having family fun time. As they get older allow them to help you bake, pack lunches or set the table, they may not do it perfectly, but thats not the point!
- Avoid ‘children’s’ menu: Its easy when you are out to select foods for your child because it is suggested they these are kid friendly meals. Typically these meals are not the healthiest choices. Focus on the same principles when out with your child, healthy whole, colourful food good and ignore the bland, beige, fatty, salty foods cause they are no good!
- Sit down to dinner. Research shows that children of families that sit down for dinner (with no TV) have better diets, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume less fried food and sodas. Which also means they are also less likely to be obese. It is so important to sit down and reconnect with your family on a daily basis and doing this over a healthy dinner positively associates these memories with nourishing meals.
- Be patiently persistant: Just because your child does not like the food the first few times you offer it to them does not mean that they do not like it. It takes 10-15 different times introducing a food before they can be sure how they feel about it. Try and offer these foods in different forms to assess possible reasons for rejecting it. Texture is the number one reason to reject a food, so if you find your child doesn’t like a certain food try to mix up textures and flavours and perhaps the next time they try it they may love it! Stay strong, it is a process.
Here’s to healthy and happy meal times for parents and children alike!