Hello from Colorado! This is our last stop on the Hungerford Family Tour before we head back to London. It has been a long time away, but we are still very much enjoying the remainder of the trip.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to chat with today’s contributor at a Mother’s Meeting. I invited her to share some of her expertise with us on the blog and she sent over some fab tips for getting your kids to try new foods this summer!
5 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Try New Foods – by Fran Roberts
Hi I’m Fran from LittleHealthyHabits. I live in Bristol with my husband, our energetic toddler daughter and am 5 months pregnant with baby number two.
I’m passionate about children’s health and work with parents to empower them to raise healthy kids, turning fussy eaters into great eaters and giving them the best start in life possible.
Of the many things that can be upsetting for parents, their children’s eating habits often come top of the list. Fussy eating can be a distressing and frustrating experience for everyone, especially during the long summer holidays when you are responsible for all of his or her meals.
Only giving them foods they enjoy may often seem like the easier option for now but will only escalate their fussiness and deprive them of essential nutrients they need to grow and develop. What’s more, it makes dining out and eating at friends /relatives houses especially tricky, so helping to create healthy habits now will be beneficial for everyone.
So, here’s my top 5 tips for encouraging your kids to try new foods this summer holiday:
- INVOLVE THEM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – make them feel like a part of the process. Older children can help with meal planning, shopping and cooking under your guidance. You can explain to them the concept of a healthy, balanced meal (proteins, good fats, vegetables etc) and task them with creating a menu including one or two foods they don’t normally eat. They will likely rise to the challenge and are far more likely to eat those new foods. If they are really little, involving them might simply be letting them help stir with a spoon or pushing the blender button for example. Again, they will be far more likely to eat what is prepared if they even think they’ve helped create it! Additionally, children seem much more inclined to try anything they can assemble themselves. Prepare dinners that they can serve themselves – try summer rolls, pizzas, platters of finger foods (see my easy summer rolls recipe below for some inspiration).
- PAIR NEW FOODS WITH FAVOURITES – Always offer foods you know they do like alongside new foods – a whole plate of new foods can be really off putting for them and demoralising for you if it’s met with a flat refusal to eat it. But a little taster alongside something that they love is much more likely to appeal to them. Make sure you have some of these foods on your plate too – If they see you really enjoying (or pretending to enjoy) eating your greens for instance, they’ll be much more likely to enjoy eating theirs. If you want them to be adventurous eaters, you can’t be seen to be refusing to try new foods yourself.
- MAKE SURE THEY ARE HUNGRY – This may sound obvious but laying out snacks and constantly offering food without it being asked for is not conducive to tempting them with new foods. They may well eat what they love and know but they are most likely to try new things if they are truly hungry. What’s more, it doesn’t teach kids to listen to their hunger cues and become mindful eaters. Make sure they’ve run around a bit and built up an appetite before meals, that you’ve asked if they are hungry and that snacks are requested. Try to allow for flexibility with timings to make it easier to eat this way. Observe your children and see when they are hungriest and use this time to introduce the things you want them to eat.
- DON’T COAX OR BRIBE – “Just have a bite” “If you try this I’ll let you watch more TV” “If you finish that you can have some pudding” etc. are all phrases you should try to avoid. Don’t let mealtimes become a battle; eliminate the power struggle and hide frustrations with a more nonchalant attitude. You’ll be surprised at how effective the phrase “you don’t have to eat it” can be. Children wont often make a fuss if you don’t react and you’ll find that meal times will be a lot less stressful with this approach and eventually that nonchalance will make them more curious to try the foods on offer.
- STAY POSITIVE – Don’t give up when your strategies don’t work overnight. These aren’t all quick fixes but ways to help your children become better eaters in the long term. Go easy on yourself and remember that any positive steps you make will impact your children in some way and be setting them up for a healthier future. Your efforts may go unappreciated now but they will thank you when they’re older and enjoy a range of foods.
PS: I had to include a pic of Pete devouring a seaweed salad last week. We encouraged him to take a bite and he finished the entire bowl! -Bethie