Young children are notoriously fussy eaters and tend to turn their noses up at new textures and flavours. To win the food battle you’ll need lots of patience and a positive approach. Here are tips to give you the upper hand.
1. Start them young
Introduce new flavours to your children from the get-go so they develop a taste for these foods. “It’s far easier to get children to try different foods at a young age while they are still developing taste preferences and habits,” says Jessica Byrne, dietician at the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa. “Just make sure the foods you give them are nutritious and wholesome, as the habits learned in the formative years are likely to track into adulthood.”
2. Get them involved
Involve your children in the planning of meals and shopping for food. “This is a great environment to teach them about healthy foods,” says Byrne. “Chat to them about the food on the shelves at the grocery store and let them select their own fruits and vegetables – you might find that they are more interested in sampling things they’ve chosen themselves.”
3. Cook together
Children are also more likely to try new foods if they’ve had a hand in making them, so get your kids involved in preparing meals. Give them their own special apron and let them help you cook and serve the meal.
“You can use this time to talk to them about healthier cooking methods and ingredients, and grow their confidence in the kitchen. Children can even develop their maths skills by measuring and counting in the kitchen,” says Byrne.
4. Make your home a healthy environment
Create an environment in which healthy eating is encouraged and healthy foods accessible. Stock your kitchen with a variety of healthy items rather than convenience snacks and unhealthy foods to reduce temptation for everyone in the home. This forces kids to graze on nutritious foods and establishes a healthy ‘norm’. They’ll also be more tempted to eat healthy, new foods if they are exposed to them on a regular basis.
5. Lead by example
“As a parent, you are an important role model when it comes to eating better,” says Byrne. “Children won’t be interested in trying some new fruit or snack if you are enjoying a packet of chips, so set a good example.”
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