Is your child a fussy eater? Top 5 ways to improve your child’s diet
OK, so even children that are typically pretty good eaters have their ‘off days’ when they will only eat meals made entirely from bread sticks and eschew anything resembling protein or vegetables… whereas other children are just fussy with food, and particular textures, smells and flavours from the off. Encouraging your children to eat healthily is one of those potentially tricky things that no-one ever tells you about before you have children!
Fortunately, help is at hand. As a qualified nutritional therapist I can give you tailored advice on what to feed your child bearing in mind your lifestyle, and their likes and dislikes. It is possible to widen their food choices, and make mealtimes happy places – but it can take patience and ingenuity to get your child to eat a wholefoods diet. I have two children and this is something I’m constantly working on, I promise!
My top 5 ways to improve your child’s diet:
1 – Get your children to help you with all aspects of food purchase and / or preparation. You may find that they are keener to try something new if they’ve been allowed to pick one new fruit / vegetable in the supermarket, wrap it up and pay for it themselves, mash it or chop it etc… Serve the new item alongside their favourite foods to increase it’s chance of acceptance, rather than let it stand the full beam of your child’s expectation alone. Then include the new food every 2-4 days, in different ways ideally, i.e grated with olive oil, steamed, cut into different shapes, used as a ‘dipper’ for houmous, as part of a fresh fruit salad, etc.. until it becomes an established part of the repertoire. Variation is key from weaning all the way through childhood, to reduce the chances of narrow eating, nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities. This is worth persevering with as even as adults we can tend to rotate the same meals week after week…
2 – Grow some food with your children, even if it’s sowing a packet of cress, watering it and watching it grow together each day, or growing strawberries, as above. For the more ambitious among you there is always growing fruit and vegetables in your garden… Courgettes have large seeds so can be easier for tiny digits and plus they germinate quickly; grow tomatoes from May in a grow-bag; carrots are ideally grown in a container from April, if you’re planting outdoors, and different coloured varieties can be good for maintaining interest levels. www.kidsinthegarden.co.uk is a great site to help you get started.
3 – make a kids smoothie together and serve it as a fresh and tasty pudding. Try using berries for a dash of bright colour and brain food – blueberries are high in antioxidants which help memory – half a banana for some fibre and some pears for Vitamin C, immunity and even improving insulin sensitivity. You can add a few tablespoons of porridge oats if they’re really hungry. Oats contain beta-glucans which help fight off bacterial infections. Adding ground seeds here is a good way of increasing their protein and essential fats intake. Use the fruit’s skins, too, they are a great source of fibre to aid digestion, and the kids will definitely be full up.
4 – throw some novelty at baking. Dig out the weird cookie cutters Auntie Ann bought you for Christmas and try baking biscuits after nursery or school. Or utilise a specific interest the child might have such as elephants, Miss Kitty or trains, for example, and google cookie cutters… For healthy baking ideas I recommend reducing the suggested sugar quantities by about 25% and using half to 1 teaspoon of organic vanilla extract instead; using butter or coconut oil instead of margarine and adding some nuts and / or seeds to boost the protein of the biscuit or cake to keep them fuller until the next meal. If this doesn’t go down well, try grinding the seeds instead (or as well as). Keep any dried fruit to a minimum though, as they can have a dramatic effect on blood sugar, and if your child suffers from asthma, they are usually a no-no due to the high levels of sulphur dioxide used to preserve them. Small amounts of unsulphered dried apricots are a good way to go (health food shops / Waitrose).
5 – Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff – if your child turns their nose up, try not to react (I know, I know…) and just re-serve the unnaccepted food again at some other time. Children’s tastes vary over time. Encouraging a positive, interested, RELAXED and healthy attitude to food is the most important thing – not forcing them to eat every single last pea – which can be really off-putting and in some personalities this can create an area for battles and tension.
If you would like to discuss your child’s diet in more depth, especially if you are concerned about your child’s fussy eating habits, poor digestion, full fat versus low fat dairy products, the impact of food and additives on behaviour, or anything else, you don’t have to do this alone! I can come to you for a nutritional consultation if you’re reasonably close to Letchworth / Hitchin and I can usually work around your family and work commitments.