As most parents know, fussy eating is a problem that manifests is almost all children at one point or another. Children can refuse to eat certain foods for a variety of reasons, ranging from their taste and texture to what colour they happen to be.
Some kids simply won’t touch foods they aren’t already familiar with, which can make it challenging to introduce new dishes at family mealtime. Naturally, as a parent, you want to do your best to encourage healthy eating habits in your kids so that when they eventually leave the nest, they aren’t stuck resorting to takeaway or microwave dinners where vegetables are sparse or non-existent.
Don’t lose hope! Below, we’ll take a look at some steps you can take to encourage your kids to have a healthy relationship with food and consume a diverse, healthy diet.
Get kids involved in meal prep
Getting your kiddos in the kitchen is a fun and easy way to help your children to learn more about food and the work that goes into preparing their meals. It’s no secret that humans of all ages are less comfortable with things they don’t understand, so letting your kids get involved in meal prep from start to finish will quickly familiarise them with more sounds, smells, and tastes surrounding food.
When your children take part in cooking a meal, no matter how trivial it is, they feel a sense of ownership and connection to it that they otherwise would not if you just dropped a dish in front of them. If a child takes part in preparing a meal, they’ll probably want to at least try it to experience the fruits of their labour.
Find some new recipes
The beauty of food is that there’s basically an endless amount of variations on it, so if a particular dish isn’t working with your kids, then you can find different healthy meals to prepare for them. A cursory search online will reveal plenty of quick, filling recipes that you can make for your kids.
It’s always a good idea to try and find recipes for healthy versions of dishes that your kids already love. This can also be an excellent opportunity for you to sneak in more veggies and slowly transition family mealtime to being healthier overall.
Give them a choice
Nobody likes feeling railroaded into one thing with no choice in the matter. Giving children a choice between 3 healthy options is more likely going to result in them accepting one rather than demanding they eat a certain thing.
While you aren’t giving them a true choice in choosing whatever they want for dinner, a limited set of choices is better than none at all. Encouraging a child to make their own choice regarding a healthy meal and congratulating them on it will make those choices more positive in their mind.
Take them shopping
Taking kids with you to go grocery shopping and exposing them to a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables will undoubtedly work to improve their attitudes towards food. Appreciating food is as much about experiencing different shapes and textures as it is about taste, so don’t hesitate to introduce kids to different produce and educate them about their unique properties.
Lead by example
Of course, children will instinctively seek to emulate the chief adults in their life. If they see you consuming and enjoying a wide range of healthy meals, then they will want to copy you and will grow up with a better attitude to a broader range of foods.
For example, if you aren’t avoiding unhealthy foods with too much sugar, then it will be harder to get your child to do so. The earlier you set positive examples, the easier raising your child to have a healthier relationship with food will be.
Make food a fun, positive experience for kids
Encouraging kids to have a healthy relationship with food also needs to involve you creating a positive atmosphere surrounding eating. If a child forms positive associations with food, then they will grow up having a more robust appreciation of it and will undoubtedly be more open to different things.
Luckily, lots of media targeted towards children in the form of tv shows and books understand this and will try to make food exciting for kids. It never hurts to expose kids to media that encourages them to form a healthy relationship with food and not shy away from fruits and vegetables.
The older someone gets, the more set in their ways and stubborn they become. With this in mind, it follows that the earlier you start taking steps to help your child form a positive relationship with food, the more effective and long-lasting it will be.
It’s about more than just bringing more healthy dinners into the mix; it’s about pivoting your entire family lifestyle towards healthier choices. This can manifest in many ways, such as reducing the prevalence of red meat in the weekly diet and avoiding packing the cupboards with unhealthy snacks.