Getting Children on their way to 5 A Day
We all know the benefits of eating “5 A Day” but the practicalities of getting our children to follow this message is another thing! Below are some tips and advice to get your little ones munching their way to 5 A Day:
- Blending in - Although this is a sure fire way to get your children eating more fruit and veg it doesn’t help solve the problem of food refusal in the first place (or help paint veggies in a good light for that matter!) If blending, ensure that some whole vegetables are also offered in the dish to encourage learning about whole foods and to expose them to the foods they are unaware they are eating!
- Persistence is key - The number of times parents say: “I don’t offer those, he doesn’t like them”. If we give up as soon as a food is refused we will end up with a list as long as our arm of foods that you no longer buy or serve. Instead keep offering refused foods as research shows that some children need to be offered a food 15-20 times before they will accept it! So make sure you keep trying - if they aren’t offered it how will they learn to like it?
- Acquire role models - Ensure brothers, sisters, cousins and all family members are seen eating up their fruit and veg (whilst making lots of yummy noises) - at young ages role modelling is very important so make sure the family is on board to encourage.
- Playtime snacking - When children are playing try leaving vegetable sticks or fruit pieces in the room they are in for easy access, chances are they will end up picking on these foods instead of stopping their activities to come down to ask for food.
- Favourite foods - Include vegetables in their favourite meals such as in toppings on pizzas or in pasta dishes. Initially they may pick the veggies out but they will soon get bored with doing this if you continue and are consistent. Additionally, whatever breakfast cereal your little ones have, add a handful or raisins or fresh fruits such as strawberries for added nutritional benefits.
- Getting them involved? - Allow them to participate in meal and snack preparations every now and then by chopping, serving, cooking or arranging foods for everyone to eat - they are more likely to eat up foods that they have helped to create!
- Add a side salad? - Make salad a regular part of every meal, especially throughout the summer – eventually they will get used to having a salad at each meal and it will become “the norm” for them to eat it.
- Avoid grazing - Check that your children are not filling up on junk foods before you offer them the healthy stuff! Why would they want to eat your delicious dish when they have just finished off a packet of empty calories?
- Try something new - Introduce new vegetables every now and then and ask everyone round the table to rate it on a scale of 1 – 10 for taste, texture, colour etc. Give one fact about each new fruit or veggie tried.
- Fruit puddings? - When offering a dessert make it routine to base this meal around fruits.
- Count down - Each day get your children involved in counting and adding up how many fruit and vegetables they have had throughout the day. Offer a little reward such as a star or trip to the park if they have reached their 5!
- Name your dinners? - Give the foods/dishes you serve an attractive name such as Cowboy’s casserole or Fireman’s fingers to make them pay attention and be more interested in the meals.
- Enjoyable mealtimes - Try not to make mealtimes a battle - don’t force the issue of eating fruit and vegetables but try and make them a fun occasion where you play a game, tell jokes or talk about something special . Alternatively, every now and then, have a picnic in the garden or decorate the dining table and make the food at these occasions based around fruit and vegetables.