8 tips to encourage healthy eating in children
6th November 2016
Are you struggling to encourage your children to eat new or nutritious foods? You’re not alone in this battle, with many parents across the world experiencing the same difficulties at the dinner table. Children are naturally picky eaters with underdeveloped taste buds. Consequently they can be resistant to new, and often, healthy foods. As a parent you are probably conscious of the fact that it’s important for your little ones to develop a positive relationship with food, and while this isn’t an easy feat, it also shouldn’t be a chore. To help your family build a great connection with food, read on to view our eight tips to encourage healthy eating in children.
If you’re faced with a bare fridge, it can be far too easy to pick up the phone and call for a takeaway. It’s therefore critical to be well prepared when it comes to your food shopping, ensuring that your fridge-freezer is always stocked with basic, healthy essentials. Remember that children require food roughly every three or four hours, so make sure your car or handbag contains a few nutritional treats for your youngsters to snack on when you’re on the move.
Avoid food as a punishment
It is a common phrase to hear at dinnertime; ‘you can’t leave the table until you’ve finished your vegetables.’ And while you have a duty to ensure your child receives the correct amount of nutrition, you should also be careful not to attach any negative connotations to vegetables. Making it almost a punishment for children to sit and finish their vegetables may eventually make your little ones resentful of eating vegetables entirely. Instead, negotiations or gentle bribery work better e.g. ‘two more spears of broccoli and you can have a pudding.’
Patience is a virtue
It can take a child’s taste buds a while to acclimatise to a new flavour, and you should keep this in mind when introducing them to new foodstuffs. Don’t give up, and include unfamiliar food slowly and gently – never try and force a child to eat something, as this will only inspire resistance. Maybe try telling them that their favourite superhero or Disney character eats certain foods to stay strong, and this may act as subtle encouragement.
Keep it simple
It’s a misconception that cooking healthy food is a complicated or long-winded process. With a multitude of recipes available in books and online, it’s never been easier to get your hands on some simple, nutritious meal ideas. To save even more time, try and cook food that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, stopping you from cooking two meals every evening.
As it can take children time to grow accustomed to certain tastes, there’s no harm in using some disguise tricks. Devise a dip that your children can dunk their vegetables in, or if it’s fruit they’re struggling to stomach, try putting a drizzle of chocolate on strawberries, transforming them into a dessert. Also, to make sure your children are getting all of their nutrients and vitamins while going through their picky phase, try and sneak some foods into sauces, or blend a veg to two into a fruit smoothie.
Give your kids control
Children often like to feel in command, so giving them control in the kitchen could help everything run more smoothly at mealtimes. Get your little ones involved with choosing the recipes for the week, and maybe give them a few minor, safe roles during cooking. After being involved in the process, and seeing the results, this can engage everyone in the family with the food you eat.
Make food fun
Younger people respond to imaginative ways to convey ideas, so try and extend this premise to the way you present food. Give food ‘quirky’ names, or present meals in interesting ways; simple things like this can spark your children’s interest in the food they are eating.
Be a good role model
Perhaps the most crucial tip to encourage healthy eating is to be a role model. Even if they won’t admit it, children are influenced hugely by their parents’ behaviour. If your little ones see Mummy and Daddy choosing an apple over a chocolate bar, or engaging with and enjoying healthy food themselves, this can affect how your children view food. Remember; children learn by example.
With over 30 years’ experience in the childcare industry, the team at Tiny World Day Nurseries know how important healthy eating is for children. Our family run group of nurseries are based in the Nottingham and Mansfield areas and welcome little ones between the ages of six weeks and 11 years old. To book your free tour, or to chat with one of our friendly team, simply get in touch today.