How to Handle Fussy Eaters
Following on from our last blog post (Time Saving Tips in the Kitchen) and after evaluating the survey results, the second most common obstacle we found you face when it comes to healthy eating for families is: fussy eaters. Believe me, you’re certainly not alone!
OK, so I would start by saying ‘start them young’ if you can. The earlier children are introduced to a range of different ‘real’ foods, the better, as they’re less likely to find food weird if they’ve had it all along. Hopefully they’ll develop a love of food and enjoy trying different tastes and textures.
If it’s too late for that, or you have picky eaters no matter the age (obviously many of us do as feedback clearly tells us this), then I’d suggest taking small steps to introducing new foods with no pressure – the less you fuss, hopefully the less they’ll fuss. Reverse psychology can work wonders with children so if you show them it’s not an issue to you, it might become less of an issue to them.
Just subtly encourage them to have a taste and let them leave it on their plate if it’s not their cup of tea tonight. Try to give reasons why particular food is worth eating, rather than just saying ‘it’s good for you’ or ‘it’s healthy’ (come on Mum, boring) – how about trying one of these…
“Do you know; this stuff gives you strong muscles…”
“These make your hair grow long and shine like a princess…”
“The super-vitamins in this will keep you well so you don’t miss footy…”
“I’ve heard carrots help you see in the dark, let’s eat them and see if it’s true!”
Be understanding, if they genuinely don’t like something, so be it. I have to remind myself of this at times “If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t want to eat it either!”
Simple Tips (you may have heard before but really can be useful)
Get the kids involved (depending on their age) you could:
– grow some veggies or herbs together and let them look after their little garden or pot
– plan meals together, ask what they’d like and make a healthy version of their favourite
– write the shopping list together, ask their preference between broccoli or cauli this week (give them two healthy choices and then they feel empowered to have made the choice)
– do the shopping together – let your little person count the potatoes, find the carrots…
– let them help prep or cook dinner – yes it can be messy and require oodles of patience, but keep it simple, maybe they can measure the rice or mash the kumara!
While you’re eating, remind them of their involvement: “Thanks for suggesting this meal, this is the cauli you chose, these are the carrots you picked at the supermarket, the kumara you mashed is so creamy (even if it is lumpy!), or the herbs you grew in your garden are yummo!”
Make sure your children are hungry at dinnertime. My kids have afternoon tea when they get home from school but I’m pretty strict on no food after that until dinnertime as it will spoil their appetite – if they’re hungry they eat.
I also avoid making different meals for the little people, I might make slight adjustments to how theirs is served but otherwise, they eat what we eat.
One thing I never do is offer something else if they don’t eat their dinner. That just teaches them, if they don’t eat what’s offered first, it doesn’t matter because then they’ll get what I want – it’s important to stick to your guns!
It is really worth talking to your kids about what they like so they feel involved, they might surprise you, and, kids tend to love pasta! We don’t eat a lot of pasta in our house but when we do, the kids really enjoy it. You can get some really good gluten free and wholemeal pastas now, and pasta bake is something that is very easy to make and simple to change according to what your children do like.
Pasta based dishes are also a winner for ‘hiding’ veggies in (think grated carrot and zucchini, finely diced capsicum, pureed pumpkin, blitzed spinach or kale – in fact all the veg can be blended and hidden away in tomato sauce if need be). I’d recommend bumping up the veg and protein (such as chicken), and have a little less of the all-important pasta. You can also add cheese on top (or nutritional yeast flakes for a dairy-free cheesy flavour) – surely cheese makes most things better in kids’ eyes! Add optional fresh herbs to serve.
Note, if you don’t want to go down the pasta path, use the ‘hidden-veg sauce’ idea as an addition to many other meals such as pizza, rice or quinoa, mince or baked stuffed potatoes.
Kids usually love pizzas and they’re perfect for little people to customise, just give them some good ingredients to make their own choices from (onion, tomato, capsicum, mushroom, zucchini, olives, corn, pineapple, cheese, cooked: chicken, lamb, mince, roast vegies).
Another idea is to give the kids a mini platter for dinner – these are particularly good for children who prefer their food to be ‘separate’ on a plate rather than combined.
Ask kids for their input or include ingredients you know they like, for example:
– Chicken, hardboiled egg, brown rice, cheese sticks, cherry tomatoes and avocado or
– Lamb, chickpeas, carrot sticks, capsicum or cucumber slices, and natural yoghurt dip
For more on putting together a wholesome platter, see our article on Nourishing Bowls.
Remember to capitalise on what your kids do like (as per the pasta idea above) – adding a small amount of fruit to a main meal might be another way to do this. For example:
– An easy salad combination of grated carrot, thread coconut and chopped pineapple
– Grated apple or sultanas also make a nice addition to a coleslaw salad
– In a hot-pot style dish try adding some raisins, chopped dates, prunes or apricots
Recipes to Try
You can change the veg to suit your family’s taste preferences in these popular dinner recipes from the our recipes section:
If you’d like an outing for you and your daughter, where you’re cooking together and making bath products, while having fun, I’d love you to join us on our Mother and Daughter workshop on the 6th August, from 1-4pm. To find out more, click here.