It's one of the big worries for all parents; how to encourage children to eat a healthy range of foods. Especially when they don't seem inclined to co-operate.
Part of the answer, I think, is in the question. The worry bit. Children pick up on anxiety so quickly. They can sense it.....and also see the anxious eyes expectantly watching their every move as the dreaded broccoli is placed before them.
I've done it myself. In fact, my greatest challenge, when presenting a 'new food' to my 5 year old, is to totally ignore his reaction to it; the making faces, the 'urghhh's', the smelling and moving it around his plate. Sometimes, I have to look the other way or change the subject. He'll either try it......or he won't. Either way, it doesn't make any difference. I know that eventually, as in possibly some other day, he'll give it a go. The most important thing for me is not to worry about it......or watch him anxiously!
Anyway, in the meantime, here are some ideas that have worked for me in the past. They're simple tips, but have been very effective for me.
Work with flavours your child likes already
Flavours: Jack loves lemon, he sucks them whole, so we’ve had various versions of ‘lemony vegetables’, including cabbage, broccoli, etc.
Tutti fruitti: Let your child ‘make’ their own yogurt by mashing their favourite fruit into natural probiotic yogurt, e.g. strawberries, raspberries.
Dips: Jack helped me make a dip of 70% chocolate with milk and almond butter – served with previously abhorred carrot sticks. Needless to say, every scrap was eaten and the pot licked clean.
Spreads: If your child likes peanut butter or cheese, consider grating carrot into it and adding raisins. Serve with sliced apple and oatcakes.
Introduce new food with a fun name
The following ideas were easily incorporated as they piqued his curiosity and sounded semi-exciting:
‘Eggy Pancake’: a one or two egg omelette, rolled up like a pancake, introduced shortly after pancake Tuesday last year, now a regular lunch
‘Berry Surprise’: thawed frozen or fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries), topped with Glenisk natural yogurt and granola (reduced sugar varieties, such as Paddy O’Granola). The berries have to be entirely covered with yogurt (Jack’s rule), so he gets a surprise each time – this kills me.
‘Sprinkles’: ground seeds (Linwoods, or ground flaxseed from Lidl). Ensure it’s a mix that includes linseed/flaxseed, which is full of the precursor for Omega 3 oils. This is sprinkled liberally on cereal in the morning.
Switch to ‘healthier’ versions of what you eat already
For energy: Try to switch from white to brown for more slow release energy….so brown rice, brown/wholemeal bread, wholegrain pasta, porridge or muesli, oatcakes, sweet potatoes, etc.
Treats: How about frozen innocent fruit tubes instead of ice pops? Popcorn or nuts instead of crisps (though not recommended for children under 5 due to risk of choking). Home-made sugar free flapjacks or sugar free brownies instead of biscuits?