We all want our kids to be good eaters – enjoying healthy meals that will grow good bones and keep them healthy throughout their lives. Encouraging good eating habits is vital for healthy, happy kids and good eating habits involve trying new foods on a regular basis to develop a varied diet. We all know that fish fingers and Smiley Faces is a quick and easy teatime treat for kids, but it’s not really imaginative (even if you do add peas or sweet corn to the Smiley Faces to pep things up a bit!). Getting your kids to try different foods needn’t be a nightmare, especially if you start young.
As your baby embarks on a career of eating solid foods, try introducing as many flavours as possible. Don’t worry if it’s a bit spicy or strong flavoured, kids love new flavours and should be well up for trying something new. Baby led weaning is on the increase and it’s the first step in encouraging your child to develop an open and interested attitude to food – it’s a great way of avoiding bringing up a fussy eater. Babies actually enjoy the strong flavours that we traditionally avoid introducing at an early age!
Make food fun – use your imagination to make the food look as appetising as possible. Take advantage of the natural interesting shapes and colours of vegetables and salad items and they will look delicious as well as taste good.
Get your kids involved in food at an early age. Let them help with all stages of food preparation from supermarket to table. When you’re out shopping and come across something new, show it to your child and discuss what this new vegetable/ingredient could be like. Show a sense of adventure and propose that you buy the food item and try it together to see what it’s like – involve your child in the choosing process here and get him looking forward to trying something new.
When you arrive home, ask your child to help with the unpacking and putting the food away in the kitchen. This can be a fun activity for both of you (sorting and organising = preMaths, an invaluable learning opportunity for your child).
Discuss how you can cook/prepare the new food items – talk about what can be done with the new ingredient and look at different ways of preparing or cooking it. Let your child have a voice in the process and help to choose a recipe to try out the new ideas.
When it comes time to cook the new food, get your child to help with the cooking. Kids are far more likely to eat something if they’ve had a hand in the preparation/cooking process – pride alone will make them want to eat it.
When it comes to eating out, encourage your kids to try new dishes. If they’re not sure whether they would like a dish or not, why not order it yourself and let them order one of their favourites. This way, they can try a few mouthfuls of what you’ve ordered to see if they’ve like to order it next time.
One vital consideration is that if your child orders/asks for something new that they’re not sure they like, don’t force them to eat it. Learning by mistakes can also be a valuable part of developing a varied taste in foods. The fact that they’re adventurous enough to try is the main consideration. A child who is open to new tastes and ideas should develop a healthy attitude to trying new foods. They won’t always like what they try, but the willingness to try is what it’s all about here.