Do your kids spend half an hour pushing food around their plates? Is getting them to eat something new a major headache? Do you find yourself having to cook the same 3 types of food at almost every meal just because your kids won’t eat anything else? Are you worried because your kids never seem to eat enough?
These are common issues which many parents face. They are especially distressing because we all know that in order for our kids to grow strong and healthy, they need to be able to eat a wide variety of food. Whilst most children will grow up and begin to enjoy a wider variety of foods, you might want to try some of these approaches until they do.
Is it Just a Phase?
Children’s appetites do increase and decrease as they enter and exit growth spurts. Expect that sometimes this might happen and when it does; don’t try to force your children to eat more. However, if you are concerned speak to a nutritionist or your family doctor to get a better sense of whether or not your child’s appetite is within the normal range and seek medical advice if it isn’t.
Stick to a Routine
Try and make meal times a regular event. Serve breakfast, dinner and lunch at fixed times and try to maintain approximately the same quantities of food at each meal. This will allow your kids appetites to become accustomed to eating at meal times.
Avoid in between Snacking
Very often, children don’t eat because they simply aren’t hungry enough. Does your child snack often in between meals? Are candies, sweet drinks and other salty snacks a staple? Do they know that if they don’t eat dinner they can still have a chocolate bar before they go to bed if they feel hungry? If this is the case, then your children may very well be substituting the more boring and healthy food they get at meal times for exciting, nutritionally empty junk food in between.
Offer a Variety of Visually Appealing Foods
Children relate to a story, and plating your food in fun and visually exciting ways gives you a chance to do that with them. Look online for cute ways to serve food – kids’ bento boxes are a great source of inspiration. Find fun ways to showcase the different foods you serve. Broccoli becomes a lot more exciting when it’s turned into a broccoli forest on your plate with a little sushi rabbit peeking out between the trees.
Serve Several Small Portions on a Plate
Children are often discouraged when they see a large quantity of food on their plate. They feel that they might not be able to finish all that food and lose interest quickly. Break your food up into small portions. Instead of mixing up a salad of sweet corn, peas and potatoes, place the corn, potatoes and peas in 3 small and separate piles on the plate. This will make the dish more interesting and the portions seem less intimidating to your children. They will then be more likely to try the different types of food and finish them too.
Build on Flavours and Textures
Make a note of all the foods your children seem to enjoy and then extrapolate flavours and textures. If your kids like sweet corn, you might try making corn bread, or mix sweet corn into a macaroni and cheese recipe, or introduce them to sweet potatoes cut into little cubes and roasted.
Don’t allow your kids to watch TV, read books or play with toys and electronic devices at meal times. Doing so simply encourages them to ignore the food, and even if they are hungry, may distract them enough that they ignore the need to eat because they prefer to play.
Be Patient and Encouraging
Building good habits and a healthy lifestyle takes time. This is true not only for children, but also for adults. So have lots of patience and be as encouraging as possible. It might take some time for you to get there, but eventually you can teach your kids to eat more and enjoy a wider variety of foods.