Do I have to eat that?

Karli Dettman
Many parents find it difficult to get their children to eat healthy food. Good eating habits can start from when we are babies. There are many things you can do to encourage children to eat well. Growing your own vegetables can help. Kids who help grow their own vegetables are likely to want to eat them. Kids also like playing with food. You can use food games to encourage them to eat well. You can also get children involved in cooking. Cooking does not have to take a long time or be difficult. It can be a good activity for families to do together.
Posted by: 
Karli Dettman on 24/01/2011
Two green apples
2 apples

Food is a central part of our lives

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.   

A challenge

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.

Readers comments (1)

Great article, full of good ideas in the ever-present battle to get kids eating healthy.
Often, it can be a kid thing. My first child will eat anything quite happily, whereas my second - uh-uh, very restricted, despite all the persuasions in the world! This article has given me some more ideas (I have a feeling the monster roll could be a winner!)
We also have some how-to-get-kids-eating-vegies articles on our website . The lates is from a UK nutritionalist who has come up with fruit kebabs and some great lunchbox ideas.
Off to make a monster roll....or at least, attempt it!

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