Healthy habits for happy kids
Ask any parent if they’d like their children to eat more healthily and the answer is going to be yes. We’d love our kids to adore fruit, crave veggies and choose water over juice. But in most cases, that’s not going to happen.
So, what can we do to encourage healthy eating?
Lead by example
I know this may not be what you want to hear, but when it comes to healthy eating ‘do as I do’ is much more effective than ‘do as I say’. The more fruit and vegetables your children see you eating, the more likely they are to follow suit. So, break out those bananas and clean up your own eating first.
Control the cupboards
If the bad stuff isn’t there then it won’t be eaten. This is another piece of advice that will impact your own health as well as your children’s. Don’t buy the rubbish and then you won’t be able to eat it. I know what you’re thinking, but trust me hiding the treats, or putting them where only adults can reach them, won’t work. You’ll just make the children feel like they are missing out and they’ll crave them even more.
Swap the snacks
Keep healthy snacks on hand, so that kids can reach for them instead of the biscuits. Fruit, nuts, dried fruit and seeds are great for grab and go snacks. But try to branch out from the usual; apples and oranges are perfectly fine, but some pineapple rings, berries or kiwis make a nice change and kids love them. Want something more substantial? Nut butter: peanut, almond or cashew are delicious on rice cakes or apple slices, and houmous with some carrot sticks is a quick and easy option as well.
Sneaking fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet can help avoid a row if you have a particularly fussy eater. Vegetable soup blended till smooth is an easy win. Giving it a name that doesn’t refer to the ingredients can help. Carrot and butternut squash soup can go undercover as “Sunshine soup”. Similarly, smoothies disguised as ice cream sundaes are a great way to bring more fruit into your child’s life. Berries, bananas, honey, yoghurt and ice can all be blended together to make a quick and tasty breakfast treat.
Sneaky tomato sauce.
Keeping this tomato sauce on hand means that you can squeeze more veg into quick meals without any extra effort. It’s great for adding to pasta, spreading on pizza or mixing with Bolognese or lasagna. Make a big batch for freezing and then use as needed.
- Chop and cook an onion in a little oil until soft
- Add some grated garlic, cook for another minute
- Finely chop or grate in whatever vegetables you have to hand. Peppers, carrots and courgettes are easy options, and a little celery can also work.
- Cook the vegetables for a few minutes and season.
- Add a tin of tomatoes, half a tin of water, a pinch of sugar and a squeeze of tomato puree.
- Simmer until everything is cooked.
- Blend and either serve or store.
Get them cooking
It has been proven that children are more open to eating or trying foods that they have cooked themselves. Now, this can be a bit of a hassle on a busy weeknight, but if there’s time at the weekends go for it! Allow them to add toppings to pizza, chop the vegetables or stir the pot (depending on their age). To get them excited about cooking and eating healthy food check out Buddy Oliver (Jaime’s son) who has his own YouTube channel #cookingbuddies.
Whole lot of whole grain
Swap out white refined pasta and bread for its healthier cousin wholegrain. It’s less processed and contains more of the good stuff like fibre. It’s an easy win and one that will benefit the whole family.
If your child is really fussy, if they’re a picky eater and it’s a fight every day to get food into them, then don’t worry. Yes, we all know that we should be eating our five a day. But sometimes just getting them fed is enough. Children go through fussy phases and most will grow out of them with time and will start trying new foods. So, relax and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, we can’t all be Nigella or Mary Berry, and if at the end of the day all you have the energy for is ordering a pizza, that’s okay!