Children happen to exist across a scale of those who will eat anything and everything and those who have very particular tastes. With an eye and taste for the sweet and colourful, the majority of children will often prefer sugary and colourfully packaged treats. Healthy foods such as vegetables and animal protein can often be pushed to the wayside. As some children reject meal after meal of healthy foods, there may be a tendency for parents to think they are failing in some regard. However, paediatricians state that it is actually developmentally appropriate for pre-schoolers to refuse foods we give them. And it’s wise to look at what kids eat over the course of a week rather than a single day before worrying about their eating habits. That said, here are a few easy tips to tempt young ones with as much healthy food as possible:

1. Involve the child in the cooking process

Stirring, measuring, cracking eggs, sprinkling spices —kids are curious creatures, and are often happy to get involved in meal prep. Involving children can often help them feel more of the part of the meal as opposed to an external product that is being forced onto them.

2. Start the meal with a healthy snack

Freshly cut vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers and easy to eat foods such as olives can be a great way to introduce vegetables at the moment of child’s greatest hunger. While you are preparing the interesting main meal that the child may want, get them used to the habit of munching on carrot and cucumber sticks beforehand.

3. Offer rejects regularly

Apparently, kids need to be exposed to new foods repeatedly before they will decide to like them. Some experts say it takes 10–15 “tastes” before a kid will accept a new food into their repertoire. The key seems to be not to react if the food you serve gets rejected. But to continue to offer it to the child at different times and on different days.

4. Get creative with it

Kids love food that are fun to eat. Whether it’s arranging food in colourful rainbows, or dressing up veggies to look like faces, your creative efforts might just pay off. Also, many parents and caregivers have had success serving proteins and vegetables with healthy dips like hummus, pesto, or marinara sauce.

5. Use peer pressure

It’s true; kids are more likely to eat foods they see other kids eating and enjoying. If you know a family whose kid loves a wide range of foods, invite that family over to dinner. Chances are your child will pay close attention to what the other kids are eating.

6. Grow with them

Even if you don’t have a yard, you can grow cherry tomatoes, lettuces, and other edibles in a pot. Seeing food grow can help kids make the connection between the food we buy in the grocery store, and where that food actually comes from. And hopefully, seeing some of Mother Nature’s magic will be captivating enough to tempt your child to try a few new veggies.

7. Make supplements part of your daily routine

A good daily supplement can be an ideal part of a healthy lifestyle as it can fill in nutritional gaps. Omega 3’s are one nutrient in particular that Australian children are significantly low in, with only 50% meeting adequate intakes (1). Omega 3’s are a vital nutrient for brain, eyes and nervous system development and as such having optimal levels of this nutrient can help kids achieve their best in study, sports and socially.

References

Meyer B. Australian children are not consuming enough long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for optimal health. Nutrition 2011; 27(11-12)

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