how to encourage your child to eat healthier
In this post I will dive a bit deeper on how you can get your children to eat healthier food without a daily struggle.
I’m not an expert in child nutrition or behaviour by any means, but I am a mum and these are the tips I have used in the past to encourage both of my boys to eat and set good patterns with their food.
Below are the tips I have followed with my children and I have seen others follow with their children and they have worked every time.
- Involve them in the cooking
- Cook the food they like
- Hold back the food they love
- Stick to a food routine
- Let them pick the meals
- Disguise the healthy stuff
- Make it fun
Is there anything else you have found helps to encourage your child to eat? Share with us in the comments section below and see if any of the Beet and Two Veg community can help.
involve them in the cooking
There are so many ways to get kids involved in the kitchen and they usually love it.
A great start is getting them involved in the grocery shopping.
When my son was younger I would ask him to find the carrots and he would count out the amount we needed.
Even the youngest children can help mix or weigh ingredients.
There are even knives suitable for children. I have no idea how it works but they can cut through Sweet Potato or carrots but won’t cut skin so you can know they’re learning knife skills without any risk.
Over children can be given more responsibility so you could have them cook an entire dish one night of the week.
Why not give them a budget and have them plan the meal, write a shopping list and take them to the grocery store so they can prepare the meal from start to finish.
If they’re cooking the food, can see exactly what has gone into it, and have put the hard work in then they’re more likely to be willing to try it.
You could even get them tasting the food as they go to make sure it will taste good for everyone else.
Cook the food they like
If they completely hate a particular ingredient then don’t try and force them to eat it.
Instead focus on food you know they like, even if the only vegetable they like is sweetcorn just plan meals around this.
Once you’ve got them eating the healthy food you know they like you can start to follow some of these other tips to get them eating more.
You can also use the less healthy food they like to disguise veggies and other healthy ingredients.
If I put peas and onion on the side of a plate my son would probably eye them with suspicion before declaring he doesn’t like onions or peas.
If I add them to a pasta dish he would eat the whole thing without going through the trouble of picking out the ingredients he doesn’t like.
hold back the food they love
This sounds mean, and a bit contradictory after my last point but bear with me - it’s not quite as it sounds!
What I’m trying to say is that if you know there is a part of the meal your child loves then save that part until they have eaten some of the food you want them to.
For instance, when we have curry I know my son is going to fill up on naan bread and then be ‘too fullI’ to eat his curry.
So he can have some bread once he’s eaten half of his curry. Then I’m not so bothered if he has his bread and doesn’t want any more dinner because I know he’s eaten half of his veggies.
stick to a food routine
There is nothing kids love more than a routine (even if they don’t know it!).
If we let Jacob stay up a couple of hours past his bedtime then we pay for it for days!
It’s the same with food, we have to stick to a set routine. You can find out more about our routine and meal plan with both of our children here
Let them pick the meals
Let them pick the ingredients for a dish but make sure there are rules.
If I let Jacob pick his dinner and he could have anything he wanted it would definitely be some kind of nugget with chips and pizza on the side!
This is why you need to either have rules.
either specify how many choices they need to make of a particular ingredient and they create a meal that way.
Alternatively, you can choose the meal but they get to pick what veggies you have.
For instance, I make a BBQ tofu bowl that will have tofu and couscous or rice in it. Then Jacob and Finley get to pick 2 Vegetables each that will go in the finished dish.
By letting them make the choice not only does it give them some control over what they’re eating but it also develops their decision making skills.
It’s also a good idea to let them choose how much to eat too.
This will teach them to understand when they’re full and don’t need any more food.
My kids know they can stop eating whenever they like but there is nothing else to eat, including dessert!
Disguise the healthy stuff
My mum always made me eat my healthy brussel stories when we had Sunday dinner so I would smother them in cheese sauce to the point it was really more cheese sauce than brussel sprout.
Now I don’t really mind then but they’re not my favourite Vegetable and I certainly wouldn’t choose them for a dish but at the time it helped disguise the taste of the brussel spirit so I could eat them.
There are tons of ways you can disguise some of the healthier ingredients you want your children to eat so that they do.
You can blend fruit and mix them with plain plant-based yogurt to make delicious flavours.
Try making a sauce out of vegetables to use with pasta, like this Cauliflower Pasta sauce. Or, use it as a base for a pizza or tart like this Butternut Squash Tart recipe.
You could shape plant foods into shapes kids recognise and love.
If your child loves pulled pork then make this BBQ Pulled Mushroom recipe instead.
Use quinoa to make a Quinoa and Beet Burger or make lentil bolognese or lentil meatballs.
make it fun
If you take this too seriously then everyone is going to get stressed out and it could affect their relationship with food in their adult life.
Instead, make it fun!
Some of the ways you can have fun with your kids in the kitchen are having taste tests or pick a colour of the week then try new ingredients that match that colour.
Hopefully this list will help you to get your child eating more food without the stress that can often come with this.
Don’t forget to drop a comment in the comments section below and let us know if there is anything else you have found helps to encourage your child to eat.
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