By Tracy Keeble
Food is the glue of all social interaction. It nourishes, it heals and it provides can provide piece of family life, time to sit and talk while enjoying a nice meal together. Except when you have young children. Then it can quickly become a battle of wills, a stressful half hour and something you begin to dread as soon as you have served breakfast.
Getting children to try new food, can be difficult an endless source of worry. Eventually you give up and provide what you know your child will eat, a pasta dish, with a tomato sauce, every night, every lunchtime, and let’s be honest if its choice between your child starving for breakfast too!
The truth is very little can be done with a child who refuses to be enthusiastic about food but you must not ever give up, or be disheartened, sometimes taking a new approach will work, try these simple tips.
Taking Things Slowly
Getting children to accept a new taste requires patience and time (and as a mother you have lots of that, right?). Start by adding the tiniest amount of the new flavour to an already well-loved dish. For example, adding a little bit of garlic or rosemary to a meat dish. Each time you cook the dish you add a tiny bit more until the taste becomes, to them, part of the flavour. A variation of this method is to add a new thing to pasta, or rice – depending what your child’s favourite is – again – just a small amount added each time.
Having Friends Over For Tea
This is much more fun, because you get to hang out with your friends at the same time. Arrange a play date with a good friend of your child and make sure a new dish will be served. Serve the children at a separate table and leave them alone – that’s right – walk away and leave them alone to eat the food. It helps if they are hungry when you arrive – oddly enough hungry children are more open to trying new foods. If there friends are eating, they will more than likely give it a try with absolutely no fuss at all.
This one requires some creativity and imagination. Basically take the ‘offensive’ food and dress it up as something fun, or funny. Invent a new name for it and serve it up with a story or a song. My own daughter simply refused to eat cauliflower, but she would eat white broccoli. This is a great idea but don’t change the food too much, I have heard of people colouring food and the child refusing to eat it in its natural form as they get older! But veggie faces, star shaped sandwiches are really good ideas.
Buffet Style Meals
This worked well with my own Fussy Eater and at a nursery which I was based, meals are served as a help yourself all you can eat buffet, a vegetable plate, a dish with chicken or fish, small bread chunks, maybe a savoury rice along with few dips or sauces etc you simply pop it all on the table give your child a plate, and tell them they must have something from each dish, even if it’s only a small amount. If they can complete this task then they get the same deal with pudding, which would be different fruits like mango, pineapple, a yogurt, and some crushed meringue. They love the feeling that they are in control and can help themselves, and actually very quickly get over the fact they may have to try a cherry tomato. If the children are older get them to write a report on each food type they try, what they liked, how it smelled etc.
Get Them Cooking
Popping an apron on a child and involving them with the preparation of the food is not only a good way to get them interested in different types of food, it’s the first step in having them take over some cooking duties in the future. You can even have a go at growing your own, simple things like runner beans are so easy to grow in any space, children will be eager to try something that they have been nurturing. With small children, just arranging things on a platter can be enough. This method can be messy and haphazard, but if you stick with it, you can have them creating their own school lunches in no time at all.
Quiet often giving a child some say in the meals is enough, for instance, what vegetables shall we have today, they will more than likely choose something they know they like, which is fine but then say ok ill do peas, but I would like to try something else as well, so we have red cabbage or asparagus which one do you think will go best with our tea? Ask other questions like how do you think we should cook this? Where do you think this comes from? Creating an interest in a new food will encourage an open mind when it comes to tasting it.
About Tracy Keeble
I hope I have given you some inspiration to help you and your family make small but important changes. I draw my experiences mostly, and think most importantly from being a Mum by myself,I have 2 children now aged 9 and 7. I was also a under 5 nutritionist based in a nursery where I ran courses on Healthy Eating, Dealing with Fussy Eaters, Cooking healthy within a budget to name just a few. I now work for www.vouchersodespro.co.uk writing articles and finding money saving vouchers for people who want to save money. You can follow me on Twitter @VCP_Tracy.