One of the benefits of living in a small town near the border area in today’s world is the little exposure it gives to your children to the highly destructive fast food items. Although, for a not-so-good cook mother, it forced me to try cooking some tempting variations of these items at home. As a result, my daughter many times surprised her cousins when she preferred eating jackfruit cutlets and fruity golgappas over pizzas and pastries. I was travelling a lot from south to north to west in India when my daughter was just four months old.
I realized I had to groom her to be ready to try everything. With her grandparents and my competitive maid at my side, my daughter ended up learning to eat varied food items. And its a challenging task to how to make your kid eat healthy food.
“How can I make my child eat more”….This is the question every mother has on their minds…So, this post is for all the mothers out there…
In this article I will be sharing 12 STRATEGIES TO MAKE CHILD EAT VARIETIES OF FOOD.
In today’s world, where partners/working parents are moving globally, it becomes vital that we introduce our children to eat all kinds of healthy food. Sometimes, the child may not get its share of rajma-chawal, butter chicken or poli-bhaji, so he/she must be accustomed to try some new/local dishes.
Therefore it is very important that we establish their eating habits early in life. Maybe then, they will last a lifetime.
How to Make Your Kid Eat Healthy Food:
1. Don’t be too fussy over your child’s food choice:
Remember you can’t expect your child to like all foods. If s/he tries everything and then rejects some odd food, it is still a positive sign. Your aim must be to increase the variety of food as soon as the child is introduced to solids. Remember for a one year old, denial/ choice to eat may be a way of asserting his/her budding independence.
Don’t press the child to eat what they obviously dislike. But don’t give in to pressure to give them what they want every time. If they refuse to eat what is offered, simply remove it without a fuss but don’t offer any replacement. Continue to encourage them to try new flavours. This is the best way to how to encourage a child to eat.
2. Choose their plate and spoon carefully:
You will have to spend more time at the table with the baby, in the beginning. You may have to lure the child to the dining table/the high chair. So choose their crockery-cutlery with some care. Buy something small, colourful and with pictures of their favourite animals, cartoons or colours. Something which they can hold and which doesn’t break. There are cute dishes with vacuum available in the markets which ensure that the plate doesn’t fly and spill the food off the table.
3. Don’t overload the plate:
Small plate equals to small portions. A child’s portion of fruits/ vegetables is roughly the amount the child can hold in one hand. Increase the amount as the child grows. So, if the child starts the day with an apple, eats a few grapes in the morning and drinks a vegetable soup/ shorba in the evening, you have achieved the target for the day.
Remember, it is very irritating for the child to be given huge piles of food and you expecting them to eat everything. Give them manageable portions and let them learn avoid wasting any food. If they are hungry, they will ask for second helping; which is better than rejecting the complete over filled plate. This is best method to how to make your kid eat healthy food every day.
It is often the key to tempt your child to try new foods. Remember that advertisement featuring Juhi Chawla where a child comes back from school and asks his mother who puts a “Baigan” in a pizza? All of us have done this: trying to hide the greens in the home-made burgers and pastas to make the child eat them.
Present healthy snacks in unusual ways, such as chopped fruit and nuts in little pots or mini boxes. Chop fruits and vegetables into fun shapes and serve them with some cookies, wafers or biscuits. Make it a treat through variety and originality of presentation.
The boiled or steamed vegetables may be very healthy but completely unappetizing for children. Try blending them in the rich, creamy Tomato Soups and even the most veg phobic child would struggle to guess which veggies are hidden in it. You can try this same trick with Indian dishes such as Pav Bhaji, Sambar, Rasam and British dishes such as Shepherd’s Pie, Mashed Potatoes and Cutlets. This strategy is useful for how to get your kids to eat veggies.
5. Colourful Presentation:
Children love colours. So be sure you vary the vegetables and fruits, mixing up colours. Children also love to eat vegetables and fruits raw, so make colourful vegetable straws and fruit dices or smilies for their lunch boxes.
For your fussy toddlers make a weekly plan with their consent based on the colours, say Mondays will be Red day, Tuesdays will be Green Day and so on. Let them decide which food item of that colour they would eat. They won’t break their own promises, and even if they do, it’s alright. Give them other options of your choice.
6. Be Creative:
Creativity helps to get your children to the dining table and also to make them finish whatever you put on their plate. Remember what I said before, start early and it will help you always. So, as soon as your child turns one, introduce varied tastes to your child. Experiment with different types of food items- sour, sweet, dry, curry, fried, steamed, salty, hot, cold, smooth, and coarse. While you experiment, take time to prepare them for new tastes. Once you know their likes and dislikes, try to creatively adjust the unwanted veggies to their favourites. For example, my daughter doesn’t like methi (fenugreek) and beetroot, so I puree it and put it in the cutlets and paranthas. And my daughter loves eating those red paranthas thinking it is tomatoes. This strategy can be used to how to get your kids to eat veggies.
7. Perseverance Pays:
Be ready to persevere. Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could so, be ready for the hard work, in cooking as well as in making them eat. Sometimes, it may take 3-4 attempts before a child will develop a taste for a certain food. Try not to classify foods as children’s food or adult food because they may end up being childish always and never liking the adult food. Or, perhaps, they may become rebellious and crave/devour more of the strong flavours to show that they are grown up.
8. Cook Together, Eat Together:
Your approach to food and eating will affect the way your child views and prefers food. As parents, see that the child finds both of you comfortable in the kitchen as well as in the dining area. Both of you can take turns to serve and feed the baby. And make sure to add some special effects with a story-book or a song/dance. In the beginning, the child will need more time to complete the meal. As s/he grows up, they see others eating their meal and they imitate. A word of caution, do not let the Television/ Mobile or the Laptop come in between you and your meal.
9. Involve children in shopping to cooking meals:
Just as Apni Mandi (Weekly Community Markets) in the Tricity (Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali), many cities have Weekly Farmers’ Market where fresh vegetables and fruits are sold at concessional rates. Involve your child in all steps of shopping, starting with making the list to finally chopping the veggies. No matter how young they are, there is invariably some way in which children can participate. Letting your children help you to choose what to buy and cook makes them feel they are also in control.
Take your child with you to explore these markets. Let them see how a raw, fresh from the farm vegetable looks. In case if this option is not available at your city, try events where any farming activity is highlighted, such as visits to Breweries, strawberry fields or Apple Orchards or even our very own Hurda parties in Maharashtra or Baisakhi fests in Punjab. If it’s a big deal, try growing your own crop in your kitchen garden or balcony.
Idea is to involve the child. It takes some effort to introduce your child to the basics of good food. They are more likely to try a dish if they have been involved in making it than if it is simply put on a plate in front of them.
10. Don’t ban any food:
Although it is an already established fact that fresh food is the best wholesome food that your child needs, sometimes you may have to make them eat processed / tinned food. Avoid excluding any food from the child’s food. Try to keep processed food to the minimum, but do not ban any kind of food. Once a food is banned, it becomes much more desirable. Avoid making it more attractive by not cooking it at home or eating outside. Instead, introduce and assist the child to choose healthy food over the processed food by cooking and eating the same food at home. Also, do not, I repeat, do not use food as bribe, reward or punishment.
I am sure you must have heard about schools in Japan where children make their own menus based on nutritional values, stick to them not for grades and help each other to serve and clean up. What a great way to build a healthy and honest Human Resource.
11. Don’t discuss/complain about your child in front of your child.
Do not give food more attention than it needs in the house. Avoid commenting on what your children eat or discuss their weight or calories intake in front of them alone or in public gatherings. (Remember that old Indian superstition: Nazar Lag Jayegi). Take it seriously.
12. Avoid stereotypes:
Generally, we make clear distinctions between daily food and party food. The meals in the lunch boxes and meals at home are served without paying attention to its presentation. On the other hand, the party food is always more delicious, less boring and always good-looking, although it is fairly unhealthy. Change this difference.
Make the daily meals also a treat for their eyes and stomach. Do not just pile and pack the food, make it interesting by adding some sauces or vegetable strips to it. If you offer sandwiches, make them fingers, pinwheels or in other shapes to encourage children to try them and keep using different healthy fillings as possible.This is how to encourage a child to eat.
Similarly, in parties instead of giving them unhealthy fried snacks and high on sugar sweets, offer a good range of savoury finger food, such as sausages, chicken drumsticks, corn bhel, momos, fish fingers/veggies dipped in cheese, fruit sticks and so on. Save the sweets in small portions till the end and if possible add fruits, nuts or biscuit wafers to them to make them healthier.
By making even small changes to your child’s diet, you can make a big difference. Putting in the effort at this early stage really does have its rewards and can influence the quality of your child’s whole life.
I hope you will like all the strategies to how to make your kid eat healthy food.
If you want to avoid the meal times from becoming a battleground for you or your child, be prepared to change your attitude to food because somebody is watching and imitating you closely.
Happy Cooking and Eating Times!
Happy Parenting with Budding Star