Neil from 'Progressive Family Food' has joined forces with Katy Ashworth from Cbeebies to share tips and recipes with Raring2go! to make your life easier if you have fussy eaters, and to provide strategies to help improve your child's relationship with food and make mealtimes less stressful.
Here, Neil and Katy talk about how to use meals that kids already love to help introduce new foods.
Kids love pasta. Whether it's spaghetti bolognaise or mac and cheese it always seems to be a crowd pleaser when it comes to feeding kids. Pasta is often considered a safe food for many fussy eaters. From a parent's point of view, the great thing about pasta is that the dishes are quick and simple to prepare and are super flexible. The changes that can be made can be subtle or significant. Minor changes like altering the consistency of a sauce can be a big deal to a very fussy eater but this can be the first step down the path of introducing new foods at your dinner table. Less fussy eaters may tolerate unfamiliar vegetables being stirred into their mac and cheese but the pathway to a broader palate can be treacherous and care needs to be taken to achieve success.
The key to introducing new foods is to always build upon foods that are already considered safe. Small alterations and additions which may be resisted at first can quickly lead to a mind set shift at the dinner table and an increased tolerance of new foods and ingredients.
Pasta dishes like this Salmon Alfredo Pasta with Asparagus and Peas are a great base to build upon. Simple changes can be made that most kids wont even bat an eye lid at. Changes can be made to sauce consistency, shapes of pasta, types of pasta (wholemeal, buckwheat, free from, etc,), types of cheese and simple additions such as nonthreatening veg (peas, carrots, etc) can be added with little complaint from kids. A basic Alfredo pasta can have peas added and once these are accepted, more veg and proteins can be introduced to create more adventurous dishes.
When it comes to adding new ingredients to safe meals it is vital to add in a manner that the new food can be avoided and left if so desired. Peas are a great example; they are easily eaten around so kids can still enjoy their favourite dishes whilst being exposed to new ingredients. Cooking tomatoes or adding chopped spinach may be less successful and they are absorbed into the sauce and a drastic change can present a much greater challenge to a child. Kids may still baulk at the idea of peas being added to their favourites but the exposure is essential. They will never try it if they are not offered it and although they may not try it at this meal, they may well try it at the next¦ or the next. It is important that we keep offering kids different options even if they have initially been rejected as evidence suggests it can take up to 20 exposures before a child tastes a new food and this may just be licking a pea!
Changes to familiar meals can be stressful for a child who is a fussy eater or who is just used to a repetitive diet, and as such, parents need to approach this strategy in a relaxed manner where food refusal is ok as we understand that we are playing the long game. Unfamiliarity needs to be the norm with changes to meals being a constant feature of dinner. We have to keep calm; the more we pressure, the less they eat.
Once variation becomes commonplace it becomes easier to be more adventurous, both within established meals and in introducing new meals all together. It can take time but gradual changes can quickly lead to child who is comfortable pushing their culinary boundaries whilst building a solid food foundation for life.
This recipe and strategy is a collaboration between Katy Ashworth and Neil Welsh. Katy presents the Cbeebies flagship cookery show I Can Cook' and is a mother who is passionate about healthy living. Neil works with parents of fussy eaters, helping them win their battles with their fussy eaters whilst building a solid food foundation for kids for life. More information can be found at www.progressivefamilyfood.com