Do you struggle to get your child to eat their fruit and vegetables?
When you hear that 5 a day is the ideal number do you worry that your child does not achieve this?
And what is 5 a day?
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals which help keep our children healthy, and so it’s important to have a good amount and variety of these in the diet. The amount of fruit and vegetables that count towards a whole portion, depends on your child’s age and size, although a good guide is about the size of their palm.
Getting children to eat their fruits and vegetables can sometimes be tricky due to the challenging textures, and variety of flavours. Sweet tastes are often accepted more easily than the bitter or sour ones, so we need to teach our children to like these foods.
Try my top tips to help teach your child to eat their fruit and vegetables.
I talked about this last week for fussy eating, but repeat exposure to a variety of fruits and vegetables is key, so that they can learn to enjoy these foods. Remember, children can change their minds about which foods they like and dislike. Try offering fruit and vegetables at every mealtime to ensure consistency. The more exposure children have to something, the more familiar and ‘safe’ it becomes, and therefore more easily accepted.
Don’t worry about mess
Eating is not only about putting food in our mouths and swallowing. Smell, appearance, and texture is equally as important as taste, therefore when young children play with their food, squish it through their fingers and end up with most of it on the floor, this is ok. It’s all part of their learning, and exploring their food, which is perfectly healthy.
Let them see you eating and enjoying your fruit and vegetables, because as we know our kids love to copy us. This helps them to build trust and positive messages around the foods they see you enjoying.
Make them fun
Try arranging a variety of colourful chopped fruit and vegetables on the plate in a fun way such as making a smiley face or animal shapes. You can make this a fun activity by letting your child get involved in making patterns on their plate before they eat it.
Make them tasty
Try building fruits and vegetables into tasty meals such as stir fry’s, veggie burgers, stews, pancakes/omelettes. If you are serving vegetables on the side, you can try roasting them with herbs, add some butter, serve them with dips/ sauces. There are lots of different ways to serve and enjoy fruit and vegetables, so get creative, and make them tasty.
Involve your child
Children learn by seeing and doing, and by involving your child in the shopping, preparing and serving of fruits and vegetables, you are not only teaching them some useful skills, but also helping to build trust and become more familiar with different fruits and vegetables. You could even try growing some fruit and vegetables together at home.
Having a good routine with meals and snacks encourages children to eat better at mealtimes, as they feel hungry and are more likely to eat what is offered. Children who are left to graze or drink excessive milk throughout the day tend not to be hungry at mealtimes, and therefore meals can become unsuccessful. Let them learn to recognise hunger and regulate their appetite with a good routine of 3 meals and 2 snacks spaced evenly throughout the day.
Did you know?
- Heinz baked beans and spaghetti hoops count towards 5 a day due to the fibre, tomato sauce and vitamins they are fortified with.
- Hummus and falafel can count towards 5 a day, as these are made from chickpeas which are a pulse and a good source of fibre. You could also try blending avocado with lemon juice to make guacamole which can count towards a portion.
- Swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes can give you an extra portion of vegetables due to their lower starch and higher vitamin content.
- Raisins make a great sweet snack but also count towards 5 a day. Try adding them to porridge or cereal in a morning to boost breakfast.
- Onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic which form the base for many sauces/ soups can count towards 5 a day.
- Although fruit juice can count towards 5 a day, it lacks fibre and is high in sugar, therefore the best drink to give your child is water or milk. If you do give them fruit juice, try diluting it with water and giving with breakfast.
- In order to meet 5 a day, portions should come from a range of different fruits and vegetables. Doubling your portion of strawberries doesn’t count as 2 portions unfortunately.
For some great recipe ideas head to http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/five-a-day
If you are still struggling with your child’s eating, and think their health is suffering, or that their problems extend beyond mild fussy eating, please get in touch for more individual support.