I constantly receive many emails from desperate mother asking me for advice as they go through so much with children that are fussy eaters.
It can be really frustrating as a mother, as you want the best for your kids, and to see them eat unhealthy stuff or not eating at all could be a challenge for some parents.
So here are a few tips that might help you hide healthy ingredients in their diet. Or even try to change their taste palettes to like fruit and vegetables.
If you are pregnant of have a small baby my straight away advice is:
1. Don't give solids to your baby before 6 months
2. Don't start giving them fruits. Start always with vegetables and use mashed fruits just as a little dessert after their veggie soup. Carrot is always a good start for a first meal. Then you can start to add some potato to the carrot mash, then some greens. This way you will guarantee the love for vegetables for your little ones.
I will soon publish a specific post about first baby meals. In the meantime the advice above can be very useful for success.
Now, If you have toddlers DO NOT give them sugary cereals. I don't think many mothers realise the danger of giving them such high sugars for breakfast to our kids.
When they eat these sugary cereals their sugars level rise straight up, and as they are fast digested, the sugar levels come down straight away, causing more hunger within a few minutes of eating.
When sugar levels are down our bodies crave more carbs (more sugar), so if at this point (in the middle of the morning) you give them some fruit they might refuse it, as their brain is craving something high in sugar, so they will refuse the healthy option and this becomes a cycle. This works the same for adults so the more sugar we eat the more sugar our bodies ask us for.
So the 2 things that are a big no in my house are: sugary cereals and fizzy drinks.
So, for breakfast give them oats. It is the best option. You can even mix them with some mashed carrot or some fruit.
If your kids love nuggets I would advise you to make the nuggets yourself and blend the chicken breast with some veggies. Particularly peas, as it not only will give them a sweet flavour, it will add a lot of nutritional value to them.
Blend a few slices of whole meal bread and use as breadcrumbs for extra fibre. You can make a batch and freeze them and you can cook from frozen.
Smoothies as you might have heard before are a good option to get them to eat some fruit. If you prepare smoothies, always add some spinach to them. They won't be able to taste the spinach and you are also adding some essential greens into their diet.
Also, smoothies can be frozen in the shape of lollipops, and it's another great way to make them eat them.
My boys love this smoothie: 250ml of milk, 1 green apple, 1 banana and a handful of spinach.
Soups are an amazing option to hide as many vegetables as you can. Also presentation goes a long way. My kids never resist a 'soup rabbit' like the one pictured above.
Meat balls are another option. I always make them with some grated carrot and celery and sometimes I even add chopped spinach. It's a great way to sneak veggies into your kids diet.
Pasta sauce is an incredible way to hide a lot of vegetables. Here is an amazing recipe: 1 carrot, 1/4 onion, 3 tomatoes, 1/4 red pepper, 1 courgette, 1 celery stick. Sauté all ingredients with oil and then just blend! no need to add water unless the sauce is too thick. Add some stock cube and basil to season them up.
Using the same veggie sauce from the pasta dish you can create pitta pizzas! Most kids love them and they are much more healthier than frozen processed pizzas. Top them with veggies and more likely they will eat those veggies that they usually don't like.
My banana pancakes are an amazing option to swap high sugary breakfast for a healthier nutritional breakfast: Simply blend 1 banana, 1/2 cup of oats, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a dash of cinnamon and cook as regular pancakes.
Banana ice-cream is great to hide different types of fruits. You can make this by blending frozen bananas and frozen berries. Add some unfrozen bananas to get the blender going. I have added spinach to this and you cannot taste the spinach, and still give greens to your kids.
1. Print food related colouring pages for them to colour and get familiar with different foods. Especially vegetables as you colour with them tell them: "what is this?" "it's called broccoli! it's yummy" and then go to the fridge and show them the broccoli and say: " Look the broccoli like the one you are colouring! oh mammy loves it yummy" etc, etc and this way it might help them to get familiar with certain foods.
2. Make them follow your example. Make them see you constantly eating healthy food and offer them a bite of different foods so they get the taste of it.
3. Give them a middle morning snack and an afternoon snack but don't let them binge too much or else they won't be hungry by the time their main meal comes.
4. Print a rainbow and make a platter full of veggies with all the colours in the rainbow and do an activity about eating the colours on the rainbow.
5. Be patient and be happy with every small success. If you can squeeze 2 vegetables a day in some way or another it should make you very happy
6. Allow them to participate in the cooking process. This will get them interested in eating what they cooked.
7. Have a positive attitude when they are eating and hide your frustrations on the matter as they will be more likely to refuse foods if they see you stressed as it would stress them as well.
8. Make a reward chart. And every time they eat something healthy they can be rewarded with something that is not food and it is inexpensive. You can make them fill up a jar with beans or dry pasta every time they eat healthy and once is filled they can get a little toy or take them to the park or somewhere fun.
9. Don't give up. No matter what you go through don't give up. Teaching kids about good nutrition, is the best thing you could ever do for your kids.
10. Keep offering diversity of foods. Some kids can refuse certain foods 10 times, until they actual taste them, and then they will start to love them afterwards.