Knowing what food’s good for your children and getting them to eat it are two very different things. Children can be fussy eaters - some refuse veggies, some refuse meat and some refuse both.
According to the Medibank Better Health Index, only 5 percent of Australians eat the recommended five servings of vegetables each day.
There are lots of simple ways for parents to smuggle nutrients into meals - especially in stews, sauces and soups. But how can you fill your family meals with veggies and meat in more creative and delicious ways?
Allie Gaunt, co-founder of One Handed Cooks shares her tips and favourite recipes for making mealtime an enjoyable and healthy experience for the whole family.
Listen to Allie on Kinderling Conversation:
Children avoid meat for a variety of reasons; the texture, the taste, perhaps they’ve tried it overcooked and it’s too tough for them to chew. Chicken in particular has a certain texture that some kids can’t get past. Try serving it in different ways, as a schnitzel or in strips.
While pastry isn’t something you want to serve every night, there’s something about it that kids love. Sausage rolls, when made the right way, are an easy snack or meal that can be packed full of veggies. The pastry fools everyone! Most kids will eat a sausage roll no matter what is inside. Try these yummy Chicken and Eggplant Sausage Rolls that are super easy to make.
You don’t have to use the chicken and eggplant combination; you can use many different nutritious vegetables for a tasty and healthier alternative. Choose good quality lean meats for your homemade sausage rolls because if you’re using pastry, it's important to make the insides as nutritious as possible.
If you’re at the point where your child is so fussy you can’t get anything into them, then you need to get creative. Think about meals that are really going to appeal to them.
Meatballs are usually really popular with kids, easy to make and they’re easy to pack full of goodness. You can include chia, quinoa, veggies and meat, but children will only see yummy meatballs. Serve these delicious Power Meatballs with a veggie-packed tomato-based sauce, or sprinkle some cheese on top to pop under the grill for a few minutes.
When children don’t like vegetables, they all choose different ones to avoid. Again, it’s about making them into their favourite foods. Often kids are obsessed with bite-sized crispy snacks. These Zucchini Nuggets are crumbed, baked, golden and delicious. You can also peel the zucchini if your child needs to have the nuggets ‘white’.
Lots of kids love dips as they’re a food often associated with parties, and a bit of fun. If they love hummus or guacamole, you can easily sneak some broccoli in there.
This Broccomole Dip is a familiar way to enjoy the goodness of broccoli and it tastes just like guacamole. It can be used as a dip or as a spread.
Keep in mind that dips don’t freeze too well, particularly when they’re dairy-based. Halve the recipe if you think there’ll be too much, and include the dip into your meal planning.
You can also hide veggies in sweet foods. Naturally sweet veggies are always good to make into breads or soft cookies, and the carrot in these yummy Carrot Cookies is blended in nicely. Carrot also hides well between coconut and dried fruits so kids will be none-the-wiser!
While hiding veggies is a popular solution for parents who are at their wits' end with their kids’ fussy eating, never stop offering regular veggies as well! It's important for kids to have plenty of exposure to regular raw and cooked vegetables, so they have the chance to learn to like them.
Here are Allie’s tips to encourage kids to enjoy their veggies as they are:
- Introduce all varieties of vegetables in different ways right from the start.
- Make veggies visible on your child’s plate in their natural shape, roasted, steamed or raw.
- Continue to offer vegetables again and again, as it can take 10-20 times before children accept a new flavour or texture.
- Always offer new or previously-refused veggies alongside foods that you know your child loves. This helps reduce any anxiety they may have when trying new foods.
- Demonstrate positive eating behaviours to your children and eat and enjoy a variety of vegetables with them.
- Take children shopping and let them pick out vegetables they want to try.
- Have a play with new vegetables, but don’t try to force anything on them, as that’s when you’ll often see more kickback.
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