by Cath Jenkin, Freelance Writer and Journalist
I’m one of those annoyingly lucky parents – my daughter loves eating her vegetables but simultaneously enjoys chocolate too. This didn’t just happen though – it was an actively aware approach to healthy eating that started from the day I first spooned cereal towards her mouth.
Choice makes it a personal investment
From the moment she was toddling around and scaring me with her vocabulary, dinner became a matter of choice. By actively enabling her to choose between two or three meals I’d be happy to put on the dinner table, she felt like her dinner was the result of her decisions. Kids love making decisions and being given a sense of responsibility for their lives, and yes, this is a little thing – but it’s not that difficult to implement. While I’ve never had to hide vegetables in her dinner, I have done that more recently since our family expanded (this is why my fiancé loves my lasagne so much, but don’t tell him!).
Colourful food is your friend
Ask a kid what their favourite food is and why, and they may just tell you it’s all about the colour of it. Strips of yellow and red peppers make for great finger food, while cubes of Fry’s Slicing Sausage on a kebab stick with chunks of fruit or vegetables makes for a great dinnertime treat (that’s not actually a treat!) Offering a varied plate that’s big on colour and on crunch as often as you can, does help to eliminate the “Oh, no, I don’t eat that” phrase.
There’s a lot to be said about lunchboxes. Many parents will tell you that it seems like they plop an apple into their children’s lunchbox, just to give it a trip out of the house for the day, only for the process to be repeated throughout the week. My go to lunchbox meal again are made up by variety and colour. My daughter often ditches the sandwich and enjoys more snacks, so a healthy lunch is made up of raisins, celery or carrot sticks, rice cakes and – of course – a treat.
Treats are part of the plan
You can berate me for saying this and that’s okay – I believe that treats should be a part of your family’s eating plan. If you demonize treats or make them a forbidden item, the attraction of them becomes all that more real, and could lead to binging when your children have more power over what they choose to eat. Instead, we treat treats (haha!) as part of the plan when it comes to family eating. Maybe we’ll have ice cream today, but tomorrow, we’ll double up on the salad and that’s totally okay.
What’s the secret to avoiding fussy eaters? A solid plan and an awareness that, if you fail today, there’s always tomorrow to try again. Good luck parents!
Cath Jenkin is a Durban-proud freelance writer and journalist who enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, but it only works out sometimes. Don’t ever ask her to cook rice. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter or check out her blog.