How to get your kids to eat what you eat, according to a paediatric nutritionist.

How to not raise a fussy eater

Prepping two meals every evening – one for the adults and another for kids – is a real hassle and a habit that’s best avoided at all costs… for many reasons.

It’s not uncommon for parents to enjoy a nutrient dense meal, jam-packed with vegetables, flavour and good quality protein, while the kiddies’ meal consists of pasta and cheese or chicken nuggets. Sticking to the same repetitive kiddies meals and limiting the foods that we serve our children, often means we may be depriving them of essential nutrients. Kids deserve quality, and a varied, balanced diet, which is so important for their overall development. This is something that I’m passionate about and that I discuss in depth in my book.

But, it’s no surprise that kids’ meals often differ from their parents. I see it all the time talking to parents in my workshops; over half of all toddlers falling into the category of ‘fussy eaters’, many parents assume that their child won’t be open to trying certain flavours or textures. For example, white bread, rice and pasta are often popular choices for young children because they’re among the few things they will eat and it’s so much easier than going to battle over food every day. However, in the long term, only feeding them these foods doesn’t make for a healthy diet.

Mandy Sacher family
"Kids deserve a varied and balanced diet and it's our responsibility to give them one." Image: Supplied.

When did we invent ‘kids’ food?

In recent decades, as we’ve tried to manufacture fare that our children will get excited about, we seem to have created a culture of ‘kids’ foods – particularly in places like the US, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Researchers in Canada asked six to 11-year-olds to reflect on how and why they categorised foods the way they do. They discovered that the common beliefs were that ‘children’s food’ consisted of junk food (processed and from a box); breakfast ‘candy’ (or cereal); and ‘fun’ foods that came in different colours and interesting shapes and sizes. In contrast, they classified ‘adult’ foods as fruit, vegetables and meat.

Let’s move away from enticing our little ones to eat food in superhero packaging, and instead encourage them to try interesting, diverse flavours that not only taste great but will make their bodies and brains strong. For best results, start feeding them the same foods as you as soon as they start solids (just be mindful of sodium content).

If you missed this early introduction, take heart, it’s never too late to change their eating habits. Small, simple nutritious swaps to family favourites can make a huge difference.

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Here are a few tips that will have the kids tucking into the same meals as you in no time:

1. Be a role model.

Let them see you eating and enjoying your food. This means eating together, instead of you wolfing down something while you’re standing at the kitchen bench doing five other things at once. My book has over 140 allergy-friendly delicious healthy family recipes to inspire time poor families.

Supercharged bolognaise
"With a few simple switches you can boost the nutritional value of any family favourite." Image: Supplied.

Some of our nutritious takes on traditional family favourites that always go down a treat are my Beef and Veggie Meatballs, Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza, Supercharged Bolognese recipe, Healthy Mac ‘n Cheese (on page 59 of my book) and Coconut Lamb Meatloaf.

2. Take into consideration your youngest or fussiest eater, then adapt accordingly.

There are some things that some people are just not comfortable consuming – whether it’s a certain texture or temperature – but you can modify to cater to them without changing the entire menu. For example, chicken casserole could incorporate boneless chicken pieces rather than drumsticks or spaghetti bolognaise can be blended to remove larger chunks that some little ones may find unappealing.

3. Forget supermarket marketing.

They don’t need superheroes on their cheese. Children are capable of eating the same high-quality cheese and crackers and everything else as you.

Video by MWN

4. Stay away from the kiddie menus.

They’re all the same and cater for the child who only wants very plain food (chicken nuggets, chips, pasta and tomato-based sauce, fish fingers and Hawaiian pizza). Get into the habit of ordering from the main menu – you can always go for an entree size or get them to share to reduce costs.

5. Widen their food repertoire slowly.

cheesy cauliflower pizza
"Try and introduce new flavours, textures and ingredients - it'll help increase their appreciation of different foods and cooking styles." Recipe pictured: Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza. Image: Supplied.

You might be a foodie, but you can’t expect them to accept complex foods right away. Introduce something new each week and praise them when they try something new. My book features a range of menu planners suitable for both fussy and adventurous eaters - ideal for time poor families.

Everyone gets stuck in a food rut from time to time, but keep in mind that the whole family deserves a varied, quality diet. When you all enjoy your meals collectively, mealtime becomes quality time spent together.

To celebrate recently launching in the United States, Wholesome Child is offering a 15% discount on all online book purchases of “Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook” using coupon voucher code: USA15 *Offer valid for purchases made via the Wholesome Child website only, limited to one use per person and expires 10/6/18.

Visit the Wholesome Child website to learn more about or contact Mandy Sacher or connect with Mandy on Instagram and Facebook. Or, for more information contact Mandy Sacher.

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