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Kids and Healthy Food

Guest Post by Lauren Chowles

Lauren is a nutritionist and life coach in the making. She is passionate about helping others lead their best life and runs a conscious living blog in her spare time.

Many of you embarking on a healthier lifestyle shift will know the challenges that come with it; the cravings, aching muscles, temptations, unsupportive partners/friends/parents/goldfish, screaming at the chocolate bar in the fridge to stop staring at you…it’s an absolute minefield at first. Now let’s throw some children in to the mix.

Getting children to eat healthier when they are used to eating fast food is not an easy task and even if they do already eat a healthy diet, finding the time and creativity in between your own meal prep, gym sessions and everyday adult life can be tiring. However, raising your children to love nourishing food is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. I’ve seen it in action and working with children means I’ve had to tackle this task myself. Encouraging children to eat healthier was one of the larger sections in my nutrition course. Optimal nutrition is so vital for a child’s overall health and can help prevent problems in later life.

The trick to getting your kids on board is to encourage a love of whole foods from a young age, leading by example and using interesting colours, shapes, textures and tastes. Take it one step further by allowing your children to partake in preparation and watch as they delight in eating a meal/snack that they helped create. Children as young as 3 are more than capable of tackling small tasks related to meal preparation! Here are a few more tips and tricks on encouraging your children to eat more fruit and vegetables:

Here are a few more tips and tricks on encouraging your children to eat more fruit and vegetables:

  • Keep a bowl of fresh fruit in the house.
  • Allow children to help you shop for healthy food and allow them to pick out a few items they’d like to try.
  • Children are very tactile, allow them to touch, smell and taste different fruits/veg.
  • Grow fruit/veg/herbs in the garden, allowing your child to help nurture the plants. The excitement at eating something which they have helped grow is often a big motivator.
  • At the beginning of the week, prepare some chopped fruit and veggies and store them in the fridge for easy access. I personally make a colourful fruit salad and also keep carrot and cucumber sticks, celery and cherry tomatoes in a container with some interesting dips such as smooth cottage cheese or hummus.
  • Serve some fruit and/or veg with every meal.
  • Be persistent. Keep offering fruit and veg but do not force them. A child may need to be offered a new food up to 10 times before they accept it.
  • Keep meal times fun and positive. Negative talk and practice around food can lead to eating disorders later in life. Do not label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
  • Make food fun! Use a cookie cutter to make interesting shapes out of melon, create veggie faces.

Here are a few great meal and snack ideas that won’t take hours to prepare:

  • Kebabs: mixed fruit such as melon, grapes, mango, banana, kiwi and cherries. Or make a savoury kebab of tomato, basil, mozzarella and cucumber. You can even add pieces of chicken or biltong to the savoury kebabs.
  • Frozen fruit. No seriously, try your hand at freezing blueberries, slices of banana, segments of clementines and (my favourite) whole green grapes. You can even dip them in yoghurt. They make for amazing treats!
  • Peanut butter and apple slices, or peanut butter banana ‘sandwiches’. Slice the banana and simply stick two slices together with some peanut butter in the middle.
  • Half a papaya filled with plain yoghurt, chopped blueberries and some natural muesli or mixed nuts and seeds.
  • Mixed fruit smoothies with plain yoghurt or milk/milk alternative. Add things like nut butters, cinnamon, chia seeds, etc. to create different tastes.
  • Vegetable soups. Try things like butternut, potato and leek, smooth mixed veg. Chunky soups don’t often go down too well with younger children.
  • Whole grain wraps filled with salad and chicken. Cut the wrap into smaller slices to make this more child-friendly.
  • Scrambled eggs or omelet with chopped veggies and protein. I often do mixtures like finely chopped spinach and broccoli with some ham or tuna, or tomato and rocket with a bit of mozzarella.
  • Colourful platter. So simple and ready in minutes! Chop up a mixture of fruit and veg or stick to just savoury. Create a platter with some protein: chicken, fish, meatballs, smooth cottage cheese, mozzarella slices, mixed nuts, yoghurt, etc.
  • Pancakes/flapjacks made from 2 eggs and 1 banana. Beat the 2 eggs and banana together and voila! The consistency is different from normal pancakes so wait for it to cook quite well on the one side before gently flipping over using a spatula.
  • Rice pasta with sautéed mixed veggies. Sauté chopped veg in a pan, cook the noodles in a pot as per instructions. Add the noodles to the pan when veg is just about ready. Mix it all together with some herbs and serve.
  • Sweet potato and carrot oven baked ‘chips’ and chicken.

Remember to make food fun and colourful. Cut things into puzzle piece shapes, or hearts, or stars, build little penguins out of olives and smooth cottage cheese with carrots, snails from carrots and cucumber rounds, faces on pancakes….the list is endless once you get in touch with your inner child. And you’ll be amazed at how much more fun healthy eating becomes for you too!

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