Struggling to persuade your child to eat the healthy foods you'd like them to? Follow these rules from kids' cookery expert Fiona Faulkner and soon your child will transform from fruit-dodger into veggie-vulture!
Use retail therapy
Involving kids in the weekly shop is a key strategy. Give them £1 and challenge them to find one new thing from the fruit n veg section. Decide (together) how you’ll cook it – and ask them to score this new food on an ‘exciting new foods’ chart.
Become a marketing guru
Kids eat with their eyes and ears. If they don’t like the look or sound of something, they probably won’t eat it. Serving sugarsnaps? Remember: they’re peas with sleeping bags. Making sandwiches? Never underestimate the power of a cookie cutter. And of course use a bit of PR spin for broccoli ‘trees’, ‘cloud’ mash and cauliflower ‘sheep’….
Don’t reward or punish with food
Kids enjoy something less if they realise they’re being rewarded for eating it – so each time you bribe with dessert, you head into ‘good food’ and ‘bad food’ territory. Instead, suggest to your child that dessert is the next course (for those still hungry) rather than a delicious treat.
Offer (healthy) snacks in front of a favourite TV show. A controversial but tried and tested technique.
Create a food blog with older kids. Encourage friends to comment on the dishes. This will spur your child on in their foodie journey, creating a sense of responsibility to their new ‘fans’!
Don’t get stuck in a rut
Parents of fussy eaters often have a roster of ‘quiet life’ dishes their child will eat – and these are cooked on a loop. Understandable of course but this does reinforce (and even endorse) the cycle of fussy eating. So regularly offer new foods and remember: it takes as many as 15-20 exposures to a new food before it’s even tolerated; hang in there!
Arrest the food police
If you continually nag, your kids will dread mealtimes. A simple point to remember: the idea is that your kids enjoy (not endure!) their veg. If you’re stressed about how much they’re getting, see the next tip…
Give yourself a break
To relieve some of the stress of living with a fussy eater, hide pureed veg into soups and sauces. Meanwhile, carry on introducing fruit and veg in their whole form, giving kids the chance to appreciate different foods, flavours, and textures - in their own time.
Go for the oscar
Eat something with enjoyment in front of your child. Watch as their natural curiousity takes over and they start to graze off your plate. Pretend to be annoyed and then ‘begrudgingly’ share it. Bingo! (Kids often feel more confident trying new foods from adult’s plates).
Do it buffet style
With at least three choices of veg that everyone chooses at least one portion from (ensuring they help themselves). Kids love choices, as well as a bit of control.
Recreate a restaurant
Offer kids a posh ‘starter’ before the main course – e.g. a small bowl of vegetable crudités and a healthy dip.
Borrow a foodie friend
You’d be amazed at what your child will eat when they see their friends thoroughly enjoying it. Encourage peer pressure to your advantage!
Play with their food
By using (for example) the Five Senses Game: with five different fruit and veg that they can… listen to (crunchy carrots); smell (satsumas); see (inside an avocado) etc. Or challenge your child to “make the biggest teeth marks into that apple!”
Eat your veg!
It’s simple: the more good foods your kids see you eat (and enjoy) the more normalized these foods become, and the more likely they are to want to eat them. Sure, kids don’t always eat their veg – but they’re always watching to see if you do!
Fiona Faulkner is the author of 25 Foods Kids Hate (and How to Get Them Eating 24).
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