Most kids are incredibly fussy, and noisy with it. As a result, it might be tempting to crumble at their commands and simply give in to their endless cravings for chips and chocolate, washed down with a bucketful of fizzy drinks.
Nevertheless, if we want our children to grow up into well-developed, health-conscious adults, it’s essential we strike a balance between what our kids want to eat and what they actually need to eat. A diet full of crisps and cake may keep the little ones quiet, but it could lead to serious problems for them in later life.
Top tips for overcoming fussy eaters
If your child is a fussy eater who kicks up a stink at the briefest mention of the word ‘vegetables’, it might be time to read our following tips on overcoming the stresses of trying to feed kids healthy foods:
Be patient with kids
When you first try and encourage your kids to follow a balanced diet, it’s likely they won’t be so receptive to your ‘foreign’ ideas that don’t conform to their taste for high-sugar drinks and fatty, processed dishes. As a result, it’s important you stay calm and patient. After all, the wheel wasn’t invented overnight.
Don’t try and force-feed kids with big meals crammed with healthy delicacies they’ve never even seen before. Instead, expose them to nutritious foods gradually, allowing them to adapt to the tastes of new flavours over time. Have a little patience and you’ll break those stubborn defenses down eventually!
Set a good example
The best way to encourage fussy eaters to enjoy a better selection of food is to set a good example and follow a healthy diet yourself. If children see their parents or other family members tucking into a healthy dish – and enjoying themselves – it’s very likely that they too will be tempted to give the food a try.
The best way to encourage fussy eaters to enjoy a better selection of food is to set a good example and follow a healthy diet yourself.
If you really want your kids to put down that bag of crisps or can of coke, it’s essential that you prove a healthy diner yourself!
Keep mealtimes friendly
Forget those memories of your mum threatening to stop your pocket money if you didn’t swallow that last mouthful of cabbage. These days it’s so important that you introduce your child to new foods in a warm and friendly environment – otherwise they might be put off eating healthily from the outset. Trying to wean fussy kids off their favourite fast foods will simply not work if you’re turning the process into an intricate torture session.
So, even if your loving children initially turn down the chance to tuck into that nutritious winter soup you’ve just prepared, don’t berate them (or, for that matter, feel offended!). Accept the snub with a smile and try again at a later date. Force-feeding kids will only put them off healthy foods. It may be frustrating but they will learn eventually.
Try to encourage stealthy healthy eating
Getting your kids to eat more healthily doesn’t mean chasing after them with a spoonful of spinach. Instead, another great way of getting kids to eat better is to subtly incorporate nutritious treats into their daily diets… without them even noticing!
Kids are always hungry when they get home from school. So instead of pandering to their pleas for sweets and chocolate bars, why not place a bowlful of bite-sized, juicy fruit chunks in the fridge for when they come in? Or, even better, leave healthy snacks such as dried raisins, mini cheeses and raw sticks of carrot on the table to tempt them.
If they’re really hungry, kids will eat anything, so they’re likely to grab the first thing they see, even if it's a healthy option.
If they’re really hungry, kids will eat anything, so they’re likely to grab the first thing they see, even if it's a healthy option. If you’ve left out some accessible, health-conscious treats they’ll be appreciating nutritious foods before you even know it - a bit of health by stealth.
Keep food portions reasonable
If your fussy eating child has finally started to come round to the concept that tasty food doesn’t have to be coated in sugar or salt, it’s vital you carefully keep them coming back for more! As a result, make sure you keep portions in perspective. Don’t start piling mountains of veg onto your child’s plate just because they’ve admitted to liking the odd bit of celery. Ensure that food portions are kept small to start off with otherwise you could end up driving your child back to their old habits.
Feeding fussy kids doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. As long as you’re firm but fair and offer the odd (small!) sugary treat as a reward for healthy eating, your children will enjoy better diets in no time, reaping the many health and fitness benefits that go hand-in-hand with a balanced intake of food and drink.