Are you a busy mum with children who just seem to want to avoid veggies like the plague?
When time is short, life is busy, can’t always prepare amazing home-cooked meals in advance, and hiding veggies inside sauces is just too much of a pain (and c’mon let’s be honest, most of the time the children figure it out anyway), what do you do?
I had the same problem. And it got to the point where I didn’t WANT to hide the veggies. I wanted to teach my children how to eat healthily, and to like and eat good food. If I hide the veggies… well, they just won’t eat them when they’re older. They won’t be building good food habits.
So, I made an extra effort to discover ways to get children eating the proper amounts of food that is good for them, and making sure they had the right nutrients.
Life has gotten a bit easier since they stopped moaning about their greens.
Let’s see what they need each day and how you can get them to eat good food with less fuss.
Daily Recommended Nutrition Numbers
I found the below nutritional figures really easy to follow. Often, when you look at nutritional needs and daily recommendation tables, there are complicated figures of carbs and unsaturated fats children need each day. But these can be difficult to read and calculate for each meal and to keep track of.
This chart is easy. You can think “I’ll give them one cup of rice and 1⁄2 cup of veg for this meal”! It’s easy to figure out portions of everything they need and a good, daily balance.
You can check out the original source here (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335) for more information.
I’ve put it all into one easy-to-read table for quick reference. I hope it helps you!
This is a lot of fruit and veg, and not many calories to fit it all in. And, if you work with the healthier foods, like wholegrain instead of white grain, do you think your children get the right amounts of each of those categories?
Top Nutritional Foods For Children
Here are tips (some tricks) to get your child to eat healthy foods
1. Be a role model
The most important learning source for a child is their carer. If you’re helping yourself to crisps or letting yourself have a ‘cheat day’, they’ll copy you. Even if you think they can’t see you, they know!
Make sure they see you eating healthy foods, and discuss it with them too.
Instead of saying, ‘Ooh, I think I’ll be cheeky today and have some biscuits,’ say, ‘I really fancy something fresh, like an apple. That’ll do just the trick!’
Whether you’re talking directly to the child or just saying it in the next room, they’ll pick up on it. You may just find your child walking into the kitchen unexpectedly one day, saying, ‘I really want something fresh. An apple will do the trick!’
It happens! They copy the things you say and do, and it will show in the foods they eat.
2. Get them involved
Another way to get children eating well is to get them involved in the process by asking what they want (with limits).
Ask them what they want to eat out of a certain food group. Likely, if you ask them what they want to eat, with no further options, it won’t go as planned! So, give them options, and they’ll feel important for having the choice left to them.
Look in the fruit bowl: ask them to choose the one they most want to eat out of the bowl. When in the shops, say to them, “Oooh, can you help me. Would you like x, y, or z?”- whatever it is, them thinking they’re helping you will get them choosing between things like pears, apples, or tangerines. This is called the ‘parent provide, child decide’ model. Link to source from theconversation.com.
When it comes to eating it, they’ll feel more happy to do so knowing they chose. You can even use clever language, like “these oranges you chose look amazing. Shall we have some for lunch today?”
3. Get them helping you in the kitchen
Getting children to help in the kitchen makes them feel important and part of the living process of the family. It also educates them on foods and how they can be prepared. Not only can cooking be fun for them, and they can learn that good food is fun, but it’s also the best way to show them the best veggies. Children (and adults!) are proud of the things they make, and will be eager to show off their cooking skills and eat the food they made.
You can start simple, asking them to help you stir something. They can help you wash veg, bring you food from the fridge, and other little tasks. As they get older, they can help you chop and peel, bake, and reheat. Then, they’ll make whole parts of the meal, or whole meals, when they’re in their teens! (Easier for you.)
It’s that easy to get them involved, and it will get them experimenting with their food more. See here for more easy ways children can help with food things: IDEAS.
4. Make it colourful and fun
Everyone knows that children love colourful things, and that they’re attracted to anything with lots of colour. Even for adults, presentation makes a meal (think why restaurants spend so much time on it!)
And, helpfully enough, nutritionists recommend people to eat something of each food colour in most meals. This is because the different food colours have different vitamins that we need. If colour attracts children, make the most of it.
Use red sauces, sections of green and orange and yellow, brown rice with flashes of green from peas. Make it eye catching. If you want to go even further, add tiny spirals or circles of the sauce on their plate.
Here are extra ideas from Nuffield Health – source link.
This might sound like a lot of effort to busy mums. Even is you just take a cookie cutter and ask your child to carefully put the mashed sweet potato in the cutter. You’ll be killing three birds with one stone! Colour, involvement, and help for you.
Extra tips to get children eating healthy food
Child-Friendly Recipes To Make And Enjoy Together
Okay, so we’ve discussed what children need to eat each day to get their nutrients and tips to get children eating more healthily. Now, let’s see six fun, easy to make, healthy foods that all children will like.
The best thing, these recipes are easy for children to help you to make. They’re also cheap, so you can manage your budget easily and have your children eating more fruits and veggies- perfect!
You know nutritional, healthy foods are important for your child, even if it can be somewhat challenging to get them to eat them. Thank goodness there are lots of tips and we’ve scoured the internet for the best!
- Remember how much your child needs for a nutritionally balanced day- use the easy-to-use measures to keep track of it.
- Lean meats, fish, tofu, dairy, soy, root vegetables, berries, citrus fruits, green and leafy vegetables, apricots, and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, and oats) are best for you child.
- Use these known tips and tricks to get your children eating better:
- Be a good role model (they need to see you eating well and liking it).
- Get them involved- get them choosing (from your tailored options), get them helping in the kitchen, teach them about good food.
- Make it colourful and fun- children love colour and making patterns- use it!
- Prepare healthy snacks in advance to make it easier for children to pick them.
- Relax about trying new food, it will take a few tries. Let the child know this.
- Don’t argue, stay calm. Arguing will repulse children more.
- Grow food and get children to help. They love eating what they grow and it educates them on where food comes from.
- Try lots of new and easy recipes together to show children the variety they can enjoy. They may not like one thing, but look at all the other things
Now it's your turn to get involved: what are your tips?
Do you have any tips and tricks or funny stories to get children eating healthier, nutritional foods? Let me know in the comments!