Whether you’re a top chef or regular home cook, everyone knows the toughest critics to impress are the ones standing no taller than our elbows. Feeding kids can be super tricky, but there are many ways to dodge the flying little trees of broccoli they throw your way.
Here are five tips to get fussy kids eating better.
- Provide a variety of foods.
The more foods you expose your child to from a young age, the less they will develop fussy eating habits. If they love one food and you give it to them everyday, the more likely they are to refuse anything else that isn’t that food. Or it could go the other way, they could get sick of it and never want it again. Change their meals up with different ingredients to keep them excited about the food they eat. Swap broccoli for peas or carrots for sweet potato. Making a meal plan for the week is very useful and can save a lot of precious time.
- Change the texture.
More so than flavour, texture plays a huge part in food appreciation. Whether it is crunchy, mushy, slimy or gritty, texture can dictate your kids choices of food. If your child doesn’t like boiled potatoes for example, instead mash them into mash potato, bake them into crispy wedges or grate them to make pan-fried fritters. Just because your child doesn’t like boiled potato, doesn’t mean they wont like crispy ones. There are so many ways to cook vegetables that change their texture completely, from steamed, baked, raw, mashed, boiled, stewed, pickled, shredded and more. Get creative.
- Use umami.
Also known as the ‘fifth taste’ umami is the strongest flavour after salt, sweet, sour and bitter. It is what gives some foods that all rounded, satisfactory flavour. The best way to incorporate umami into your cooking is to use stock. Use chicken stock as the base to make a hearty and healing chicken soup or dashi stock to make a Japanese miso soup, or boil rice or vegetables in some beef stock. It adds a real depth of flavour loaded with nutrients extracted from animal bones, alternatively you can use vegetable stock too, which is also of course extremely high in micronutrients.
- Get them cooking with you.
It’s super rare your child will refuse to eat the food they took the time to make with you. Even if you give them small roles like washing the ingredients, stirring or mixing them in the pot or guiding them when cutting vegetables, a little involvement can get them interested in the process and can make them more adventurous eaters, tasting throughout the cooking process and trying new foods they wouldn’t have tried otherwise. See my older post ‘5 Reasons Why You Should Be Cooking With Your Kids’ for more on this.
- Lead by example.
Kids look up to their parents and copy their actions, so your eating habits will directly affect your child’s. If you order takeaway often and barely cook fresh foods at home, it is very likely your child will grow up and adopt this lifestyle. Your food choices will determine whether your child reaches for a chocolate bar or apple, pack of chips or nut bar. It is important to keep in mind why we want out kids to eat better in the first place, to ensure they grow up to become healthy adults. We may lose some food battles but in the end it is worth the good food habits that come out of them .