I remember it well…
…Sitting around the table with my children as they devoured a nutritious dish without any hesitation or even the slightest complaint. I would beam with joy as I watched them sink their little gums into my premium selection of nutritious dishes, including fresh fruits, different meats, and even (you might need to sit down for this) vegetables …Oh, the exhilaration of every successful mealtime! However, my smugness didn’t last long, in fact, it was very short-lived. It seemed almost overnight my so-called ‘Good Eaters’ joined the “Picky Eaters Club”!
Like any mum who encounters her child’s sudden, self-imposed food denial, I became anxious and concerned about my children’s nutrient intake; I also became concerned about their development and well-being. However, spawning children also seems to spawn a sneaky mind, one with quick thinking skills and creative tendencies to entice your kids to get what you want. I quickly decided to avoid all confrontation regarding my children’s restrictive food choices. I remained, however, determined that they would continue to eat a well-balanced diet that included their “Five-a-Day” portions of fruits and vegetables. I just needed to be creative with the way I tried to achieve this.
At first, I seemed to be losing, every new idea I tried just seemed to be swished around the plate with a fork, followed by the dreaded word…. Yuck! Then one day by a stroke of luck I stumbled across the answer. I was spirialising a courgette, and my daughter seemed intrigued by what I was doing ‘can I help?’ she asked eagerly. We’ve never looked back, that night she devoured a full plate of courgette carbonara – I was finally winning. Involving my children with preparing and cooking their meals was a real game changer for my families eating habits. It not only enticed them to clear their plates but they also developed a wider understanding of food; why certain foods are good for you and where it came from.
When you cook with children, they feel a lot more comfortable with the foods they are eating. It’s a much better way of achieving the desired outcome than simply presenting them with new food on their plate. Children love to help out with culinary tasks such as grating a carrot, slicing a banana, mixing a dressing or pressing the button on a blender. It makes them more willing to try whatever they are creating.
Encouraging children to take a more active role in choosing and preparing their food helps them to eat a wider variety, and gets them eating more healthily. Choose your recipes carefully; you need the right amount of familiar items mixed with new flavours. The best idea is to plan ahead, check out the recipes you want to cook and make sure you have all the ingredients ready. Involving the children at this stage is a good start. If you don’t have the ingredients you need, for example, you can go shopping together, create a list and start your cooking adventure.
Make Cooking Fun
The kitchen is fun and also a fascinating place. It’s where your family can get creative, get your hands dirty, and end up with something nutritious, delicious, and healthy to eat. Not many other activities offer all of that in one great bundle! And it’s easy too. All you need to do is follow a family recipe, and you’ll soon have your kids working like real kitchen professionals. To increase the chances of your kids eating their tasty creations, you can also create games to make eating more fun:
- Go On Foodies Adventures!
Kids love to play make believe! You can bring this fun game into the kitchen when you’re cooking – in fact, you should! Using imaginative play is fantastic when you’re baking blueberry muffins or whizzing up a great green smoothie. Your kids’ imaginations can get them eating even the greenest of vegetables; it’s just like magic. For example, if they don’t like spinach, they could imagine it’s super greens that will make them run as fast as a Lion! Or why not make my Banana Wands and pretend you all can swing through the trees like monkeys? There are lots of imaginative ideas to play with that will entice children to eat.
- Food Art
I love food art! It’s so much fun! You can make smiley face pancakes, or use cookie cutters to turn toast into stars or hearts or teddies. You can make a stick of celery and some raisins into ants on a log! You can do so much with food to make it look really special and interesting. Now is the time to get creative with food since it’s so much fun and so easy to do. I will be sharing lots of food art ideas with you throughout my blog – or you can make up some of your own!
Cooking is fun, but getting your kids to go out and choose their own ingredients is even better! Take them to a farmers’ market or grocery store or supermarket so that they can choose the food themselves. They can pick a recipe from a book and write a list of what they need; then it can be their job to go and find the ingredients in the shop. Bring it all home and get cooking! Or they can even make up their own recipe if they’re feeling really adventurous! You could even ask them to choose an unusual looking vegetable that can be chopped up into a veggie casserole, or choose some exotic jungle fruit that they can try out in a juicy fruit salad.
- Grow Your Own
Creating a little “grow your own” garden area in your home or garden is great fun. The kids can plant and harvest their own supplies. If you have little space, why not plant herbs into pots that can be placed on a sun-drenched windowsill? Many types of veg such as spinach and carrots can also be grown in containers. The possibilities are endless!
- Cooking With Friends
Play dates are brilliant, so why not combine playing and cooking and invite your kids’ friends over to help them create some fabulous food?
So why wait, grab a recipe book and get started… why not give my recipe book a go.