The autumn brings not only a change in temperature but a corresponding change to our routines. New school years, new clubs and getting used to the dreaded homework again. On top of that, many of us feel it’s a time to get back into a ‘healthier routine’ after the summer days of overindulging become a distant memory. It’s time to get back to healthy packed lunches; healthy family dinners and fewer sweets and puddings. Only to find that it’s not as easy as it sounds and can be incredibly hard to sustain! Of course, it is, if we rush in to it like this. Too many changes at once never have a good rate of success.
It can work better sometimes, to make changes to how we talk and think about food before we make changes to every single meal we cook. By putting less pressure on ourselves and our children we’ll feel more at ease with the changes we make.
There are lots of great ideas out there on how to encourage our children to try new foods and healthier dishes.
From hiding veg in pasta sauces to serving meals buffet style. From continuously exposing children to new foods, all the way to having lots of patience! Some work, others don’t. Every child and family is different.
There are however multiple things we can do to make our habits around food more positive and these start way before you serve up a family meal. Read on with an open mind!
Include your children in your food shop
I totally understand that this my 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 allow your kids to set the menu (pizza, chips & chicken nuggets) 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 like ‘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 kind of parent the can bear games like that. 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 of how certain foods grow, or which country they grow in. Anything to widen their (and your) horizon about the foods we consume is great!
Talk about ALL foods equally
There is no good food vs. bad food. 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 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 and hence they will 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.