Children’s food is overwhelmingly associated with unhealthy eating. Who didn’t dream of chocolate, sweets, soft drinks and ice cream as a child? After all, sweets are featured as a vital part of childhood in most popular media, from children’s books to advertisers. It may not be possible to completely remove sweets from a child’s diet, but getting your kids to eat fruit and vegetables doesn’t have to be a battle. It is possible for your children to enjoy a balanced diet – you just need to know how to get them excited about healthy food. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Cook healthy recipes with your child
When you think of cooking when you are young, you probably think of freshly baked cookies, sweet biscuit dough and lots of coloured icing. You probably don’t think of salads, fajita wraps, mini pizzas and fish cakes. It’s never too early to tap into your child’s inner chef and teach them to make a few basic and healthy recipes that will see them through into later life as well.
Explore what healthy food your children like
Some vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, seem to be universally loathed by children. However, there are many other fruits and vegetables that your child may already like, such as avocadoes and cherry tomatoes. Encourage your child to try different vegetables and reward them when they try something new – even if they decide it isn’t for them after all.
Find alternative rewards to sweets
Parents often reward children with sweets and chocolate when they have done something well, making it easy for children to associate sweets with achievement and treat time. Avoid rewarding children with sweets and find alternatives such as stickers, healthy snacks, their favourite fruit or just lots of affection.
If healthy food isn’t available at your child’s school, prepare a lunch box that contains a mix of starchy foods, protein, dairy and fruit. Include food that is fun to eat and shareable such as carrot sticks and hummus. While chocolate bars and crisps are convenient to add to a lunch box, try replacing them with fruit salads. Dried fruit does not count as a healthy snack as it is high in sugar and bad for teeth.
Smoothie recipes for kids
Fun, easy and quick — smoothies are a great way of getting one portion of your five-a-day. Make it fun by getting your child to pick their favourite fruits and put them in the blender. Ripe bananas give smoothies a creamy texture and naturally sweet taste, meaning you won’t need to add additional honey, sugar or ice cream. If you’re looking for inspiration, explore these healthy smoothie recipes for kids. Just remember, fruit juice and smoothies are high in sugar, so limit your child to a serving of 150ml or less a day.
Children need a lot of energy to keep going but many children’s menus are high in fat, sugar and salt: chicken nuggets, burgers, fries, ice cream, grilled cheese. When eating out, buy a side of salad or greens to complement a child’s meal if a vegetable is nowhere in sight. When you’re on holiday, there is sometimes no choice but to eat in a restaurant. Here are some tips to help you eat healthily while on holiday. And whatever you do, make sure you’re keeping the soft drinks to a minimum!