Ah, the picky eater...
Every household has at least one. For parents, a picky eater is a nightmare. You dread dinner time, you avoid buying too much veg for fear it will go off AND you end up being hard on yourself for giving in. To help you out with age-old parenting struggle, we have come up with some little things you can do to change your child's eating habits and give them a positive outlook on healthy food.
Let them 'cook'
This may be a farfetched idea, but allowing children to feel in control of what they eat can really help to broaden their minds in terms of food. Even if it’s something as small as washing salad leaves or beating eggs, the kids are more likely to want to taste something if they are involved in the process!
Make veggies a game
Pick an animal that they love that also happens to be a herbivore. From elephants to triceratops, from horses to bunnies, make believe that your little ones have transformed into a green-eating creature. Get involved yourself to totally immerse them in the character so that they won't be able to resist some leafy trees (broccoli) or some crunchy roots (raw carrots) - it really works!
For the very stubborn child, introduce them to dips. Carrots, celery, sweet potato wedges, raw peppers, etc. can be dipped into hummus, pesto or Ballymaloe Relish- try the smooth version if your little one isn’t mad on bits! Apples, bananas or any fruit really can be dipped into peanut butter or dark chocolate. Find what works for your child and stick to it- you'll be amazed at the magic of dipping!
Make veggies art
This is a super fun way to give your kids a positive outlook on veg and other healthy foods. No need to be Picasso, just slightly creative- make a smiley face out of tomatoes, carrots and some leafy spinach hair- stunning! It may sound a bit silly but soon your child may even look forward to dinner if they know it can be a creative and fun experience.
Replace the unhealthy
We all know by now that there is no point having a blanket ban on treats. Instead, go for the sugar-free options. Go for unsalted popcorn. Have chocolate rice cakes or chocolate covered strawberries as a snack or dessert. Replace chicken nuggets with homemade fish fingers. Cutting out all of the sugary, salty or oily food in their lives will only make them look elsewhere- the best fruit is always forbidden, after all!
TRY not to make two dinners
This can be very tough especially when you have a stubborn toddler in the house. We know life can be challenging and sometimes throwing some plain pasta on the hob to keep 'em quiet seems like the best option. However, if at all possible, try to have them eat what you eat. Get rid of the 'two dinners' habit early, or you might have a teen who will still expect pesto pasta after you've spent the day making a roast.
BUT, give them SOME choice
Give kids control over what they eat can work wonders. Not 'what meal will we cook today?', but 'what veg shall we have?', 'what fish do you like?' or 'what way should we cook the potatoes today?’ This gets them interested in how their meal is prepared. Some kids will be horrified at cooked carrots but will love the crunchiness of raw ones. Though this seems like a pain, the aim is to give them a love of healthy food and this really works!