Kids are curious by nature, and they learn by watching the adults around them. The first step to making sure they cultivate a good relationship with food is setting a good example – cook homemade meals and show them how great eating delicious and nutritious foods can be. Then, take on these tips to get your little ones excited about joining you!
1. Be patient
Much like the average adult, kids don’t like too much change at once. To get around this, introduce one new food at a time. When you serve it, add a small portion, and fill the rest of the plate with foods they love. That way, they won’t feel overwhelmed. Let’s say your kids love fish and chips. Whip up the dish as you normally would, and then add a few sweet potato chips, or maybe a serve of peas. If all goes well, you’ll be able to sub in more sweet potatoes and phase out the potatoes, but start slow!
Research shows that children often need to try a new food 12-15 times before they decide if they like it, so don’t give up right away. Ask them to take a ‘polite bite’ of the food each time, and avoid pressuring or bribing them. These methods can backfire and make them reject the food altogether.
2. Serve healthy food that’s easy to eat
If a food is messy or too hard to eat, your kids might get frustrated with it. The solution? Slice and dice it into smaller pieces. For example, send them to school with chopped up carrot and celery sticks, and slices of fruit. With soft fruits like apples and pears, be sure to put the pieces back together and wrap them up so they don’t go brown in their lunchbox. If you’re home, pull out your trusty cookie cutters and turn fruits and veggies into fun shapes. On that note, kids love interacting with their food, which is why we love serving up ‘dipping’ foods, such as flaxseed crackers with smashed avocado, hummus or tzatziki. You can even make your own hummus with organic chickpeas, lemon, tahini and garlic.
3. Take them grocery shopping – if you’re game
Kids love learning. When they’re a little older, let them tag along on your supermarket run, and tell them what ingredients or products to look for. By giving them a task, they’ll feel a sense of duty, and they’ll be more invested in the results when you get home. If you have a farmers market close to you, even better! They’ll be able to meet the people who grow their foods, and – no doubt – pepper them with questions. You can turn the market into a teachable moment. Challenge them to find a fruit from every colour of the rainbow, or the most interesting or weirdly-shaped vegetable. Then, explain the health benefits. You could say broccoli boosts our memory so we ace the spelling bee, blueberries help us to stay focused at school, and so on.
4. Ask the kids to help you with cooking
Chances are, your kids will be chuffed at the request – and they’ll also be more willing to eat something when they helped to make it. Before heading into the kitchen, sit down with your little one and decide what to cook. You can either give them a few balanced meal options, or ask them to choose between two foods. Do you want carrots or spinach with the chicken? Do you feel like rice or pasta? Do you want strawberries or banana on your porridge? Decisions, decisions! They’ll love being involved in the menu planning. When the menu has been set, assign tasks that suit their age and skill level. Maybe they can help you to wash, stir, mix, or roll meatballs. Or maybe they can plate up the meal. Give them plenty of praise and encouragement along the way and let the whole family know – loudly and proudly – that you’re serving up “Maddy’s mango salad” or “Rob’s roast.”
Top tip: If you have the time, you could do the same thing when you’re packing their lunchbox, too. Ask them what veggies they want in their wrap, and what snacks they’re craving. Yoghurt? Cauliflower chips? A superfood bar?
5. Turn cooking into a hobby
Sign your little one up for a kids’ cooking class. A pizza-making class is a good one to start with. Read cookbooks together, and stick post-it notes on the recipes you both want to try. And if you allow screen time, watch a cooking show that puts pint-sized chefs in the spotlight. They’ll look forward to cheering for their favourite chefs each week and seeing the creative dishes they come up with. Along with inspiring them, it’ll also give your child more confidence. If the kids on TV can cook, why can’t they?
6. Try a healthy meal subscription plan
Our haven editor, Bel, recently gave Hello Fresh a go, and she said it’s honestly changed her family’s mealtime routine.
“I used to make a modified meal for both of my kids, because one didn’t like this and the other didn’t like that,” says Bel. “But, since starting Hello Fresh, everyone is keen to give everything a go, because they’re completely involved in the cooking process. One night my twelve-year-old will cook, and then my ten-year-old the next night – they love it! It’s totally gamified making dinner.”
As hard as we try, it’s not always realistic to make everything from scratch. Another brand making parents’ lives a little bit easier is GoodnessMe Box. With their Kids Box, which is just $11.95 per month, your kids will receive their very own box filled with five or six surprise healthy snacks. All the snacks are made with natural ingredients, nut-free and approved by a team of health-practitioners. They’ll love tearing the box open and discovering all the goodies inside, and they’ll adore the fact that the box is just for them!