Often when dealing with a fussy eater, it’s our natural tendency to jump straight to our desired end result - and we wave a fork or spoons filled with said new food and try to tempt our little ones to pop the food straight into their mouths or TV to distract them!
The problem with this is, children have a natural tendency to be suspicious of new foods, thought to be an evolutionary trait to help protect us when growing from eating something that may be poisonous! For other children it will be more about gaining some control. So maybe it's no wonder their mouths clamp shut and there is nothing we can say to make that mouth open!
But, exploring a new food in a playful setting, similar to Foodie Tots classes, can be a powerful exercise for a nervous or picky eater. Here are our top five fun ideas for exploring food at home before even thinking of serving it on a plate.
1. Why not get a selection of fruit and veg and ask your child to guess whether they have seeds inside or not? You can create quite a bit of anticipation before chopping up the fruit/vegetable together - smell it, shake it, squeeze it - all great activities to familiarise your child with the fruit/veg and getting them hands on with no pressure to eat!
2. Paint with food - definitely not for the faint-hearted and those that don't like mess, but very rewarding. Explore different coloured fruit and veggies. Blended raspberries make great red paint!
3. Take a trip to the fruit and veg aisle of your local supermarket or farmers market with your child to let them pick out a fruit or vegetable they like the look of.
4. Get them involved in food preparation, often when children help to cook the food themselves they are more willing to try it. Mushrooms are nice and easy for slicing without a sharp knife.
5. Casually ask your child to give you a hand with dinner and ‘pick up these chopped vegetables and put them in this saucepan please'. Often children don’t like ‘wet’ foods, but this encourages them to over-ride this whilst focussed on completing the job.
For more ideas and games consider a term of our classes, which has the added bonus of peer pressure, we often find once one child starts exploring the more unsure ones follow!
Book a trial class here
Just like breakfast (see our earlier blog here), to keep our growing little ones going until home time, lunch should be a mix of complex carbohydrate, protein and fruit and or vegetables. Although its tempting to pop a sweet treat in too, its best to keep these for the many parties or play-dates that will include these less healthy options, rather than have them expect it every day!
Children often eat better without parents around and when eating with their peers, so use their lunchbox as an opportunity to offer something new or that they’re not always willing to eat at home, but limit it to one thing and the rest they like so they don’t go hungry!
Here are some ideas to help pack a nutritious lunchbox.
Pick one carbohydrate, one protein and one fruit/vegetable any extra’s you think they need or will enjoy!
Wholemeal bread for sandwich
Cold cooked wholemeal or brown rice pasta
Buckwheat crackers (Amisa), oat cakes (Nairns) or strips of pitta bread
Cold new potatoes or roasted sweet potato chunks
Other Carb Extras:
Cheese, smoked salmon, tuna, occasional ham, egg or chicken
Pot of cheese cubes, sliced chicken or hard boiled egg
Hummus, guacamole or cream cheese for dipping into or practice spreading
Slice of frittata or home-made quiche
Other Proteins extras:
Fruit & vegetables
Carrot sticks or sliced pepper
Sliced cucumber and berries or a small banana
Little pot of berries, raisins, cranberries (Crazy Jacks) or a date
Vegetable sticks or banana, apple or pear
It is essential for kids to have a good food start to the day, especially in reception-aged children, when their more structured learning is mostly carried out in the morning. Without a slow energy release breakfast to nourish their brains, they may get too hungry or have inadequate fuel for the brain to concentrate and learn effectively.
A healthy balanced breakfast should include a mix of complex or unrefined carbohydrate (porridge, muesli, wholemeal bread or fruit) and some protein (eggs, baked beans, chopped nuts, seeds, full fat yoghurt or milk).
Here are some great ideas for breakfast:
Best to avoid sugary refined and overly processed cereals, white bread or very sweet yoghurt, as this will give your child a ‘sugar rush’ first thing instead of a balanced supply of fuel to the brain, leaving them hungry after an hour or so when you are not there to give them something else. One bowl of sugar-frosted cornflakes or Cheerio’s can contain nearly 4 teaspoons of sugar!
Foodie Tots is the result of a shared passion between Clare and Julia to help encourage and nurture a love of healthy food amongst young children. And if you decide to come along to our Weybridge class then it will be Julia who runs the fun, interactive and exciting class.
So, here's a little more information about Julia, by Julia herself!
I am a trainee Nutritional Therapist studying in the 2nd year of a 3 year diploma course in Nutritional Therapy at the Institute of Optimal Nutrition.
After a 10 year career working for Guardian News and Media and following the birth of my first child I decided on a change of direction. I have always had a passionate interest in health and nutrition and I found there was so much, often conflicting, information out there on the best way to feed children, so I decided to start studying the subject. In 2011 I studied Diet, Exercise and Nutrition for Children and qualified as a Diet and Nutrition Advisor with Stonebridge College.
Now a mum of two young boys, I find that motivating them to eat well and regularly enjoy fruit and vegetables is not always easy and I understand the difficulty in encouraging children to try something new.
Healthy, nutritious food is my passion and seeing children choose and enjoy food, whether through, selection, preparation, exploring or tasting gives me great satisfaction. I love working with children and to see a child who firmly believes they will not like a food try it and enjoy it is very rewarding.
I hope to see you at my class in Weybridge on a Tuesday!