Do I have to eat that salad? asked my eldest son. He is tall, thin and nine years old. I firmly replied
yes. A few seconds later I added more information.
You need to eat greens, I said with a big smile.
He reluctantly but cooperatively handed over his plate. He had already wiped clean his plate that was filled with pasta mixed with grated veggies and mayonnaise. Pasta is popular with our children. He also ate sticks of carrots and cucumbers dipped with hummus. I added home-grown lettuces and spinaches with shop-bought tomatoes and black olives. He ate it all up, only leaving the olives. They have a strong vinegar taste.
Many parents have a hard time feeding their children healthy food. It can be a challenge getting kids to enjoy good food. And we all want to avoid those horrible “food fights” across the dinner table.
Good eating habits can start as soon as babies start to eat their first solid food. I received good advice from a vegetarian friend. She explained that if we start to wean babies with mashed bananas or other sweet fruit, they will not even try puréed vegetables.
There are other creative ways we can encourage our kids to eat well, too.
The vegetable patch
Our kids get excited when we grow our own vegetables in the garden. They are curious and want to taste our home-grown produce.
We have grown vegetables like lettuce, spinach and zucchini. It helps if we involve the children in our planting, watering and harvesting. Our kids understand that home-grown vegetables can be better for them.
Fun food games
Children love playing with their food. You can use this to your advantage.
Try the following suggestions:
- Create own monster salad roll. You can use colourful vegetables for eyes, nose, mouth and hair. Kids will enjoy eating the entire monster!
- Pretend the food in the spoon is a train travelling into a tunnel
- Introduce counting games. Kids like playing with numbers. One example is to ask your child to eat five spoonfuls of vegetables before they can leave the table.
Too tired to cook
Sometimes we all feel too tired to cook. But preparing food does not need to take long. Salad sandwiches are one way to get our minerals and vitamins quickly and easily.
Try to find the time to learn and enjoy cooking at home. Involve kids in food preparation and the cooking. They should soon develop a lifelong love of cooking. It will help them eat well for their whole lives.
Creative tips for parents
Here are some other ideas for getting kids involved in cooking:
- Steam or cut up raw colourful vegetables and serve them with a mashed avocado dip
- Put a small piece of burger, sausage or egg (or anything else your kids really like) with a lot of vegetables on the side. When they eat all vegetables they can have a second serving of their favourite food
- Keep mid-afternoon snacks small so the kids will not be too full for dinner
- Don’t treat or bribe kids ice-cream or other desserts every night. Once a week sweet treat is enough.
Some children can be very fussy eaters. But I think it is better and easier to cook the same meals for the whole family. It also helps to have a relaxed and happy atmosphere at dinnertime.
Food is a central part of our lives. Try to make dinner an important family time.