With the first warm days to be enjoyed we often feel a little more energetic. Ready to tackle our to-do lists, we embark on all sorts of projects. From clearing out the garage to sorting out what and how we eat.
If you too feel that you and the family had too much of everything over the last holiday and it’s time to spring clean your diet, then read on!
There is no point in trying to say ‘No’ all the time when the kids ask us for something sweet. After all, they’ll just want more of what we deny them.
There are however, some great ways in which you and the family can reconnect to food, make it fun and before you know it you will all enjoy more fruit and vegetables. Without even trying hard.
It’s understandable that many kids lack the enthusiasm to try and eat new foods, especially veggies and fruit! A lot of food is bought online, or without the kids being there (knowing how stressful it can be to rally around a supermarket with 2 little ones in tow). It’s no surprise many children think the food we eat “comes from cupboards”.
We then hand our children plates of food with things that we have prepared, at a time we have decided they should eat and we usually choose how often and what sized portion they should eat as well.
Hmmmm… there is not much choice in it for our little people, right!?
The lack of choice we give our children and the disconnect they have from food preparation and food sourcing can contribute to many of the issues they face with food.
Where does the food we eat come from? How does it grow? Ok, I challenge you: Do you know how broccoli grows? What about quinoa?
So my first and most natural suggestion to most parents would be to get their children involved with the foods they want them to eat.
Include your children in your food shop.
I totally understand that this may seem like hard work, but it doesn’t have to be all the time, nor does it need to be for a full shop. Spend some more time in the fruit and veg aisle. Allow your kids to handle foods. Allow them to choose something they fancy, even if it’s something you would not have chosen yourself. Giving them some control over the foods you have at home will make them much more enthusiastic eaters.
Let your children handle food.
Regardless of your children’s age, there are ways of getting them involved and allowing them to handle the food you want them to eat. If they are too young to peel a carrot, they could pick cherry tomatoes off the stalks. There is no need to encourage them to eat the foods they handle. Making contact with food is a good first step to build a relationship with it. The rest will come.
Give your children a choice.
And don’t worry. I don’t mean that you need to allow your kids to set the menu (pizza, chips & chicken nuggets, hehe) they want. Oh no. You are the parent and you are in control over what and when your children eat. However, you could give them a choice such as ‘we’ve got soup and a casserole on the menu this week, which do you prefer on Monday?’. Or ‘what do you fancy with your fish tonight, beans or broccoli?’ Again, your children will feel empowered by the choices you are giving them. Think about it: how would you feel if you had no choice over what, when and how much you eat?
Make food fun.
And again, although I think it’s great to make veggie & fruit skewers or bunny shaped sandwiches, I believe there is a shelf life on tactics like that. And besides, you’ve got to be a certain level of tolerance and patience we don’t all possess. But you could watch age-appropriate clips on You-Tube about how certain foods grow? Little ones love farming videos with tractors. Older children love a challenge. You could test each other’s knowledge over dinner on how certain foods grow, or which country they grow in. Anything to widen their (and your) horizon about the foods we consume.
Talk about ALL foods equally.
There are no good foods vs. bad foods; clean foods or dirty foods; healthy foods or unhealthy foods. When talking to your children about foods, give all foods the same status. However, we simply have more of some foods and less of others! No food in the world alone can make us super healthy. It’s about embracing and focusing on all foods. Besides, the more we talk about the foods we don’t want our children to eat, the more they will focus on these to become much more desirable.
Dani Binnington is a cook, yoga teacher and wellness warrior dedicated to providing practical steps for physical and mental wellbeing for the whole family.