Having children is a real blessing, nothing can compare to being a parent and the love that you feel for your family. However, this doesn’t mean that having children doesn’t come with a bit of stress too, and meal times can play a big part in that.
This is because most children go through a stage when they can become a bit fussy about what they like to eat and what they don’t. But as a mother I’m sure that I’m not alone in thinking that picking the food we choose to feed our children is a great responsibility. We want to make sure that they have a well-balanced diet, that they are eating their 5 a day, drinking plenty of water, enjoying a variety of meals and not eating too much salt and sugar. But all of this can feel a bit overwhelming, I know that as an adult I struggle to eat my 5 a day, and I must admit that I have a major sweet tooth. So how can I provide a varied and healthy diet for my fussy children without adding any stress? Well, here are a few ideas.
Have a Meal Plan
Before you head off to do your weekly or daily food shop, sit down for 15 minutes and decide what meals you will be cooking. This is important because if you go into the supermarket without a clue what you are going to get, it is very easy to just opt for the convenient processed food meals which you know are a hit with the kids and that are jam packed full of salt and sugar.
If you need inspiration as to what meals you could cook. Then a quick look on the internet will soon sort you out. My favourite site to look on is www.bbcgoodfood.com.
Get the Kids Involved
Why not take the kids to the supermarket with you? Getting them involved in picking the food is a great way to get them on board with your healthy eating plan. It makes them feel that bit more grown up and more willing to try the new food that they have picked out themselves. You could ask them which vegetable they would like for tea that night, or you could ask them which cereal they think looks the best (only giving them a choice of a few healthy cereals, not the sugar filled chocolate ones).
When it is time to start cooking, why not get them to help you? Most children love being in the kitchen and helping out. So get them to peel the sprouts, help you measure out your ingredients and even get their hands messy making your own burgers.
You can have loads of fun doing this together, and it will help them to feel comfortable with food and have a bit more of an understanding about all the different varieties.
Introduce Things Slowly
If your children really do struggle with new food, then introducing things slowly could be the way to go. For instance, if you’re having chips one night, then it could be a good idea to make a few sweet potato chips as well. Give your kids their usual chips but just add a few of the healthy sweet potato chips on the side. Don’t ask too much of them, expecting them to eat the whole lot could cause an unhappy and stressful atmosphere and it could possibly put them off trying any new food altogether, but ask them to just try one. Hopefully this way you can praise them for giving it a try, and they might even eat the whole lot once they’ve tasted them.
If you introduce new food in this way regularly then they will hopefully come to realise that different food isn’t such a bad thing. Some things they really might not like but others might give them a pleasant surprise. If you don’t overwhelm them by asking too much of them then eventually they might stop being so fussy because they won’t view new food in a negative way.
Use Reward Charts
Using rewards charts is a great way to encourage children to try new food. By giving them a sticker every time they try something new they will start to associate new food with something positive. If you have more than one child this could make their competitive streaks work in your favour. They probably won’t want their sibling to have more stickers than them, because this means that they will inevitably get their reward first. So this could make your job a bit easier because they will be making each other try something new so you don’t have to.
So here are just a few ideas of how to give your children a varied and healthy diet. What about you? Do you have any more tips for stopping fussy eating?