For many parents there is a disconnect when it comes to healthy eating. They would love their child to eat healthily, but find that their child turns their nose up at most healthy foods. Instead, they demand to have comfort food that is more than likely unhealthy.
The idea of this article is to help you encourage your child to eat healthily. Encourage is the key word there, because if you try to force this it will likely end badly!!
These tips do work, but it is better if they are started as early as possible. This will make healthy eating a part of your child’s normal daily life, rather than an alien concept you try to teach them later!
These tips and activities should make eating food a fun experience for your child, with the added bonus that you will be encouraging them to eat healthily.
Try our 8 key tips below:
1. Get your child involved. I will make this tip number one in my list, as it is the best and simplest way to encourage healthy eating in a young child. By involving your child in the cooking process, you will find them much more likely to eat the finished product. Children love cutting and mixing, so let them be a helping hand in the kitchen. You can even find kid friendly cook books to really make your child feel involved. They could even help choose future meals.
2. Make food colourful. Young kids love anything that pops out to them. By making sure the food you serve them is colourful, you are increasing the likelihood that your child will be interested and engaged by their food (I know it sounds weird to say that food is engaging, but it can be!!)
A rainbow of vegetables. Luckily, there are a wide range of vegetables in the world, and many with vibrant colours. Squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant….the list goes on!.
3. Spruce up your table! This is an often overlooked point when it comes to making meal times engaging. Make sure the table setting is colourful and appealing to your child. This will encourage them to stay there longer and eat all their food (hopefully!). By adding special place mats, table cloths, cutlery and plates, you are really making a great eating environment for your child. Of course, this will need to be tailored to your child and what they like.
4. Remember to change it up! Try not to prepare every meal the exact same way every day. Experiment with different ways to keep your child interested and second guessing what you may do next! The easiest way to do this is to cut their food in different ways, with different shapes. For example, don’t always cut a sandwich the same way.
Use those kitchen tools!! By using things such as cookie cutters and different types of knifes, you can cut food in a multitude of different and fun ways. Cookie cutters come in all shapes and sizes, so may be the best option for busy parents! We will talk about this more later, but cookie cutter are also a great way to involve your child. They would love helping you cut their food into different shapes!
5. Turn your child’s food into art! OK, don’t worry, I am not asking you to go crazy here! But by adding some fun details to your child’s food, you are making meal times way more appealing. You could arrange vegetables to look like a happy face. You could build their sandwich into a stacking tower. Be creative!
6. Add some spice! Sauces can be a quick and easy way to add interesting flavour to your child’s meal. Whether it be the classics (tomato sauce, brown sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream, mustard) or some more exotic flavourings (mmmm….Jamaican jerk sauce!), they all help liven up any mealtime. Try to buy these sauces in squeezy bottles, as most children will find it fun to squeeze their own sauces out. You could also arrange the sauce on the plate in a special way, linked to point 4 above. You could make a flower or heart shape with the sauce, for example.
7. Child friendly names. You would be amazed how much of a difference coming up with a fun name with your child is. So naming spinach Popeye’s power food would excite your child far more. OK, I am sure you can come up with a better name than that, but you get the idea!! Amazingly, their was a study done in schools about this. They found that by renaming carrots to “x-ray vision carrots” more children showed an interest in eating them! You can find out more about this study here.
8. Make food easy to eat. By making the eating process a smooth and easy one, your child is more likely to stick with this whole eating thing! The best way to do this is to make sure all their food is cut up into easily eaten bite size chunks. If you are finding some food items are simply too big to make bite size, you can try making mini versions of the same food. For example, sliders or mini burgers would be more fun than struggling with slicing up a full size burger!
I hope that this article helps you see that encouraging healthy eating in your child is achievable and not that complicated. Yes, it will take some effort, but the long term effects will be more than worthwhile. You will be nurturing a (hopefully) lifetime healthy eater by implementing these tactics. As I said at the start, the earlier the better!
If you have any experience with this subject, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below. How did you help your child to eat healthily?