How to overcome picky eaters and the sweet tooth
When your child is ready to start eating solid foods, it is best to start with puréed and softer meals. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce colourful vegetables into your child’s diet, adding them to the meat or protein for their main meal of the day. Sweet potatoes and potatoes can help to bulk up a dish, and add a source of carbohydrates and energy for your child. In the summer months, when fresh veg are plentiful, why not try to add some blanched kale, courgette, or green beans to your cooking? Have the BBQ grill on? Try grilled asparagus or yellow and orange peppers and enjoy the sweet smells of your savoury cooing! The more varied (and colourful!) foods your child tries, the more their taste buds will develop and grow.
When children start to walk and become more active, they need a wide variety of foods for physical development and energy. Offer a range of different foods over the course of the week and your child is likely to get the nutrition they need. There is no need to cook special meals; use foods all the family enjoy, and blend the meal if necessary to help your child.
This is a phrase we’ve all heard – sometimes from the very same person who loved the “dreaded” food only last week! One of the things we can do as parents is try to be flexible and understanding as this may be your child asserting their independence so don’t take it off the menu completely but continue to provide a range of choice and re-introduce the fruit or vegatable at a later stage. A great way to encourage your child to try new fruits and vegetables is to involve them in the harvesting or collection of their foods, maybe take a trip to the local farmers market and allow your child to browse around the different food stalls and learn through their sense of sight, smell, touch and taste. Or if you have green fingers, tomatoes, peas and chives are all very easy to grow!
After an expedition to the market or the shops, play a game with your children by letting them sort items into groups on the kitchen table. Show your child the different fruit and vegetables, talk to them about the different colours, and encourage them to feel the unique textures. After lunch or dinner, ask your children to count how many portions of fruit and vegetables they’ve eaten toady, explaining about portion size and how one pea is not enough to be one of the five-a-day!
Look for any vegetables hiding in cooked dishes, for example carrots and peas in Shepherd’s Pie. Pizzas can have faces made from slices of pepper, cherry tomatoes and cucumber eyes (always a fun kitchen game). Mashed potatoes can have other root vegetables mashed in, for example turnip or swede, chopped green beans or broccoli. This mixing can be done on each child’s preferences at the kitchen table before the meal starts.
Your child may have already tasted some sweeter snacks and chocolate, but it’s easy to re-introduce naturally sweet fruits into their diet. For desert or an afternoon treat, encourage them to help you prepare a ‘Fruit Platter Face’ using sliced strawberries, grated apple, blueberries, small orange segments, halved grapes or whatever fruits you have to hand! Frozen berries such as blueberries, raspberries or strawberries (be sure to halve these before you freeze them!) make an excellent addition to a fruit smoothie. Just add natural yogurt and a teaspoon of honey if you think it taste too bitter. Try sticking a lollypop stick into half a banana, pop them in the freezer overnight and voila! You’ll have fruit ice lollies.
A little bit of melted chocolate can be used to make glamourous party snacks to cover strawberries, bananas, or can be used as a dip for melon slices. Just make sure there is an adult supervising the chocolate dipping and dunking as some of the little ones might get carried away.
Making time to sit down and eat together with your child can be a very rewarding time, and often then best time to chat about their day. It’s a nice occasion and they will learn how to take turns in a conversation, listen while others speak and share their ideas too! Encourage your child to help out with the preparation of the meal and the tidy up as well!
Dearbhala is Director of Childcare with Giraffe Childcare