Winning with the Little foodies
One of the things I struggle with most is getting Ayla to eat healthy. She’s picky. She always wants the same thing (pasta). She’s reticent to try anything new. She hates when things are mixed together. She’s not hungry for dinner but starving for dessert! When she does finish all the veggies on her plate, or happily munch on a healthy snack I’ve prepared, I’m secretly very pleased with myself! Here are a few little tricks I’ve devised that have helped me win… maybe they will help you too! Post your tips to help us all out!
1. Involve them in cooking! Get them to decide what they want to eat (out of the available choices you give them). Take them shopping with you. and invade the produce section. Let them pick up the different fruits and veggies while you explain what they are and what they look/ taste like. Get them to help you prepare the food – you’ll be surprised how good they can be at tearing herbs/ greens, washing produce, breaking nuts, licking bowls – the possibilities are endless!
2. Bake sneakily healthy desserts. Ayla loves all things chocolate – brownies, squares, coco-choco balls. But she doesn’t have to know how they get so sweet! I substitute sugar for all sorts of different things, mainly dates and sometimes even sweet potatoes! Two of my fave recipes that have been a hit with her are “Coco Choco balls” and “Sweet potato brownies”, both from Deliciously Ella.
3. Veggies first! Fill their plate with at least 1/2 veggies – tell them if they want more X (whatever they’re into, like pasta), they need to finish veggies first. I usually give Ayla about half of what she wants (pasta) and double of what she should eat (veggies.) Mean mommy right? I know! But it’ll be worth it someday. (right?)
4. Give them cut up fresh veggies to snack on. Whenever I pick up Ayla from the creche, she is famished and will eat pretty much anything I give her. She asks me ‘Mommy, what do you have to eat for me? I’m hungry!’ And I tell her, ‘Well, today you can choose from either apples, carrots or red peppers. Which would you like?’ After some initial protests at the lack of anything sweet (“my friends get chocolate and candy!”, she forgets and will happily munch away at whatever is front of her. Timing is key! This also works really well if they’re “vegging out” on the couch with TV. A little bowl of carrots or grapes will quickly disappear!
5. It’s all about presentation. My dear aunt Meral teyze told me this awhile ago and I was like, “Whatever, my kids will eat what we put in front of them! I’m so not going to be one of those moms that makes faces out of food to appease their kids.” Well, a year later and I am SO that mom. Whatever works! You gotta survive. And you know what? They’re kids. A little fun is allowed.
6. Think (and eat) in colours! I read somewhere that to maximize nutritional impact, try to eat as many colours as you can in every meal. This is perfect guidance for kids – arrange their plate with as many colours as you can, and tell them they need to eat some of every colour. This is deceptively simple, but works really well. It becomes a game for them. “Who’s gonna eat their greens first?!” “Don’t forget your yellows!” (and again, I am SO that mom, God help me.)
7. When in doubt – blend. I realized recently that Ayla hated to see things floating around, touching eachother. Everything needed to be one thing or another – not cluttered! When I blended it — she couldn’t see the mixed-up-ed-ness anymore, only a consistent colour, taste and texture. This turned ‘I hate this soup’ into ‘Can I please have some more mummy??’ Music to mummy’s ears.
I know there are many more tips out there, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Please share in the comments!