As a child I was a VERY fussy eater and I don't want my children to follow in my footsteps. When I was younger my Mum took to 'hiding' vegetables in food so that I wouldn't know I was eating them until I said "that was yummy" and only then would she list off everything I had just eaten! Because of this I am introducing as many different foods now to my 2 girls as I possibly can!
I know problems will arise as she gets older and I hope to use tips and ideas from my friends to make it as less stressful as I can for all concerned! Whilst still encouraging them to eat a wide variety of foods.
My philosophy is to teach children right from the start that food (and cooking/baking) is great fun. If they are involved in making choices, learning where food comes from and preparing their meals right from the start then they will have a better relationship with food.
Children need to learn where their food comes from for them to have an interest in what they are eating. So many times as a Nursery Manager I heard children saying that milk came from Tesco and sausages from Sainsbury! When you go to the supermarket give your child their own shopping list, visit farms-see fresh eggs and watch a cow being milked.
Cooking from fresh is definitely the healthiest option for all of us and getting our children to eat the same as we do is the easiest option, this way your home will feel less like a cafe at meal times! Healthy eating is the same for us as it is for our children; we need a balanced diet, a balance of taste, fun and goodness! To be realistic in this day and age I think we need to have a balanced diet over the week rather than over the day, that way if you are out for a day at the weekend or in the holidays it doesn't matter if you have a couple of treats as long as a conscious effort is made over the rest of the week to 'be good'.
It can be very difficult to know what size portions should be for children, this guide shows what a 'balanced diet' is and portion sizes for children.
Carbohydrates: 3-5 portions a day
One portion for example would be: 1 slice of bread, 6 tablespoons of cereal, pasta, rice or couscous oats, 2 tablespoons of sweet potato.
Protein: 2-3 portions a day
One portion for example would be: 2 slices of cooked meat, 1 chicken breast, 1 fillet of fish, 1 cup of lentils or four fish fingers)
Dairy and Milk: 3 portions a day
One portion for example would be: one glass of milk, one pot of yoghurt or fromage frais or a tablespoon size of cheese)
Fruit and Vegetables: 5 portions a day
One portion for example would be: one apple, banana, pear, 2 plums, kiwi, handful of cherries or grapes, dessert bowl of salad, 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables.
Fats and Sugars: limit items from this group. These give a lot of energy but not many nutrients.
These foods include margarine, butter, chocolate, crisps, pastries, biscuits, cooking oils and sugary drinks.
Preparing healthy meals quickly and cheaply.
This is what we all want, right? As a working mum trying to do this can sometimes feel like a mammoth task, but its not when you can organise yourself. And if you get it right, more often than not cooking a yummy healthy meal from scratch is quicker than a microwave meal. Planning and preparation are the key. I have now even taken to making a menu for 3 weeks in a row! I never thought I would be the menu kind of person, but it has really helped me. I just have a look through the freezer and try to think of a few new meals to try, I always put in the favourites too, and then I don't have to worry about what I'm going to cook each night! Whatever my husband and I are eating the girls will have for their tea the following evening if we are unable to eat together due to other commitments. We always eat together as a family at weekends and as much as we can during the week.
Meals like stir-fry's and mince dishes are a great way of getting portions of vegetables into meals and for encouraging children to try different foods. Meal times need to be fun and relaxed, fussy eaters make this very hard! If you are dealing with a fussy eater then don't spend too long preparing each meal-the longer you spend the more frustrated you will be if they don't touch it and it all ends up in the bin!
Prepare meals with your children; make it an opportunity to have fun and spending time together! Hopefully it will help them enjoy their food more.
One of the easiest ways to get lots of different vegetables into your children is homemade vegetable soup.
Ria has 2 girls and previously worked in nurseries for over 15 years and left managing a day nursery when her eldest was born. She now works for Raring2go! as our Digital Content and Strategy Manager
If you are interested in writing for Raring2go! or featuring on our site please email Ria.