We all know how difficult it can be to get kids to eat healthy all of the time. So many things working against us, living in a world surrounded by junk and sugar, in shops, in friend’s houses, at parties, doting grandparents! The list goes on. Often parents want to avoid a battle, and looking for the peaceful way, let kids to have what they want. But what they want is not necessarily what they need! A good moto I think is if they are eating very well 80-90% of the time, then they can afford to have a little treat now and again, often referred to as the 80:20 rule. Back in the day a ‘treat’ would have been an occassional nice thing, not something we had every day or even a few times a day like seems to be the case nowadays. One good place parents can start is by stopping buying rubbish themselves, you might find that Mum is buying a treat here, Dad is buying a treat there, Granny calls, Grandad visits, a neighbour calls in with treats, by the end of the week you’d be amazed how it all adds up. Our even ask Granny or Grandad would they mind bringing something else like stickers, collecting cards, arts and crafts, whatever they are into. Or in the situation where its not possible to say that, or they just wont listen! you could always allow them a little and ‘put some away till later’ if needs be. Sometimes it can be tough to stick to your guns, but if you need a little motivation, or a way to visualise it for the kids (or the Grandparents!) a great (& scary) visual exercise in toting up their sugar intake for the day, it can be a real eye opener! 4g of sugar is equal to 1 tsp.
We are seeing more and more cases of behavioural issues among kids all the time, you only have to look at a diet of say; cornflakes, white bread ham sandwich and chicken nuggets and chips to see where the problems lie. With fussy eaters and dinner battles, kids are often not getting enough fruit or veg or good fats in their diets, and left extremely nutrient deficient. These foods packed with micronutrients, omegas, phytonutrients are essential for the proper functioning of their bodies and brains.
Eating a colourful varied diet full of natural wholefoods, like fruit, veg, wholegrains, good protein sources, good fats, and free of refined foods and sugars is going to give kids all they need to get through the day, growing and functioning as they need to be.
Another good rule of thumb is to ensure they are getting ennough protein. Including protein in their meals & snacks is going to keep blood sugar balanced & will keep them full for longer as well as giving them the much needed amino acids they need so badly.
Here are some practical ways to get healthy foods into kids:
Make fruit a regular feature at the breakfast table, maybe a bowl of fruit salad, even just the fruit bowl itself, and let them take their pick. Lots of colourful fruit and berries included in their breafast is going to give them a great nutrient boost to start the day. Warming a few berries, with a little honey, can make a very tasty ‘jam’ for toast or porridge.
Oats makes a great base for breakfast that you can add to and make your own. As muesli or as porridge, you could lay out a few little containers of ‘toppings’ and let them work away themselves, with fruit, berries, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, fruit puree. Oat based breakfast bars are a great one that can be made ahead of time, to make things easier on those busy or fussy mornings!
Pancakes made using banana and egg simply, or with oats added too are a fantastic flourless option.
Milk is a staple of most breakfasts. You can have fun trying out different milks with them trying all the different tastes and seeing what they like.
Smoothies and juices made from veg and fruit are a great way to get lots of nutrients into kids in the morning. Veg like pak choi, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, generally go undetected when mised with apple or orange. Our favourites are carrot spinach and orange or also pakchoi, cucumber & apple with a little cinnamon goes down well. A smoothie left very thick without adding any water can be a breakfast smoothie bowl , eaten with a spoon. You can add things here again like porridge oats, nuts, seeds.
Eggs are a great protein source for them, sending them off on their day ahead. Boiling some the night before is a very handy way to save time. Or scrambled in the microwave takes just 2 minutes!
Lunchboxes is a place where most of us get stuck in a bit of a rut, maybe sending them same thing day after day to avoid it coming back uneaten! Tope tips would be to have a lot of little tupperware containers at hand, so handy for all little snacks, like berries, nuts, fruit, etc Include lots of different colours. Change things up, like using different kinds of breads or crackers or rice cakes. Pasta in a mini thermos is nice for a novelty. The best thing is to get kids involved in making their own lunch and talking to them about lunch time in school, how does it go, what do other people bring, is there something else they have seen that you could get for them (within reason of course!). Making snacks in bulk once a week is a great idea so they are on hand when you need them. Oat cookies, breakfast bars, flapjacks are great options that will keep them going all day.
Adding a plate of crudites or any kind of veg to the table at meal times is a great way to get kids picking away. maybe as you are serving they could be eating those, maybe with some hummus or dips.
Hidden veg sauces are a great way to squeeze veg into their diets unbeknowns to them. Just sautee off garlic, onion and any veg of your choice. Cook it down, then add meat if you wish, maybe turkey mince, some passata and tomato paste, some seasoning and a touch of honey. Then blend and you are left with a bolognese style sauce, that is secretly packed with veg and goodness!!
Eggs again are great at any meal. They are a fantastic protein source and so handy to add veg to, in say an omelette or fritatta or even egg muffins.
Turkey is a great meat to use for kids. Its a brilliant source of protein. You can buy it minced and it is so handy to make into burgers or hot dogs.
Using veg as a base is great, whether it be a sweet potato or a pepper for stuffing or a courgette slice length ways and topped like a pizza.
Sweet potato or courgette fries are a great substitute for chips. Or sweet potato mash is another great side. Simply changing to brown rice or pasta or quinoa will be another great boost to their nutrients.
Fruit is great for snacks and treats. Simple fruit on its own, or in a fruit salad. Fruit kebabs are great, and kids can have fun putting their own ones together. Melted dark chocolate is great for dipping fruit into. Or even dip fruit in and then chill it, so you have chocolate covered banana slices or mandarins segments, these go down very well. Apples or pears and nut butter is another great one. A spiraliser or a mandolin too are great tools to have in your kitchen, apple noodles or chips are great.
Veg is also great. Raw veg sticks with hummus or dip of their choice is a brilliant one. Courgette noodles are great and its fun making them, they can be cooked in a tomato sauce they can be passed as spaghetti. Doing different things with veg can mix it up a bit too, grated, slicing, noodles, raw, cooked, gets them used to al the different tastes and textures and will help broaden their palettes.
Popcorn is a handy wholegrain snack, Kelkin do a nice one you can make yourself. Kids love watching it popping in the pot!
Nut butter/homemade Nutella can easily be made in a Nutribullet, kids will be amazed to watch it changing from nuts to butter. Almond butter is so easy to make, a good tip is to lightly roast the nuts first. For the Nutella do the same with hazelnuts and then add some cacao powder and a little honey.
It can be very challenging dealing with fussy eaters. Top tips would be to persist, try and try things again, it could take up to 15 times for them to try something and like it. Giving options works well so if they say they don’t like something you could say ok ‘well the options are broccoli or carrots’, rather than ‘you have to eat broccoli’ they usually choose one or the other, a good way to get them trying things, without them feeling forced, can make them feel grown up and like they have a say or a choice. Discussing it with them, making table rules like everyone needs to try things, they can always spit it out if they don’t like it but they must try it, this sort of thing can be good for getting them used to different tastes and not afraid of trying new things. Having fun with food is another great touchy-feely way of getting kids interested in nutrition, things like food art, funny faces, building their own sandwich, making their own pizza, taste tests (blindfolded for the brave!), build fruit kebabs or fruit flowers, this sort of thing.
Probiotics are another thing to include in kids diets, they can really boost their digestion, immune systmes & health. Especially with all the bugs going around at school, this will help their defences. Good probiotic yogurt and kefir are good or probiotic powder is pretty much tasteless and so handy for throwing into their breakfast or smoothie.
Hope this is a help! Best of luck!!