To increase your child’s interest and appetite for vegetables, it is a great idea to involve them in the recipe searching and shopping stages. By doing this together your child will become aware of everything that is available and can choose a preference in terms of recipe/ingredients. Your child will enjoy having a say in what your family eats, and you can make a challenge out of trying new types of food.
A similar approach can be used for fruit: take time to explore the supermarkets and talk to your child about all the different types of fruit that exist. Make it a challenge to try as many fruits as possible and listen to what your child says about each one. When they tell you what they like, you could start a game in which you could include fruit in different forms including cereal, fruit bowls or a make your own ice-lolly.
We understand that it is not possible for many parents, but try and use any opportunity to involve your children in the food shop, as this will give them an idea of where their meals are coming from and it can also spark an interest in a particular food item that they like the look of. The supermarket will open their eyes to many new products, encouraging them to try more, whilst having a hand in the decision making. Sometimes fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive; you could try frozen fruit and vegetables which have the same healthy effects and can cost less.
If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk please visit https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/ for more information.
For fast meal menus and recipes why not visit the Change 4 Life recipe section, where you'll find a lot of suggestions to try out as a family. It's worth cooking in bulk too because this means you will have home-made ready meals available for super quick healthy dinners. There are many stages to cooking a meal and you can get the whole family involved by dividing the cooking into different parts.
It is important to maintain regular meal times so that your child becomes used to eating at certain times around the day. There are many options for healthy snacks in between main meals including carrot sticks, nuts and fruit. Remember not to offer whole nuts to under 5 year olds as they can be choking hazards, and to stick to whole fruit rather than juice as this contains more healthy fibre than juice does.
It's just as important to make sure the lunchbox your child takes to nursery or preschool provides a healthy and balanced lunch. This means plenty of good quality foods from the 5 food groups, with few 'processed' or packaged or ready-made foods (as these usually contains fewer good nutrients and often more salt and sugar).
A balanced packed lunch should contain:
Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw veggies such as carrots or peppers and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in. Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods that can be paired with cheese pieces.
Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, such as kiwi or melon. You could also make up a tasty fruit salad. Be inventive and encourage your children when they try something new. Some good ideas can be found here
Note that dried fruit is no longer recommended as a between meal snack as it's high in sugar, and can be bad for teeth.
How much sugar should children be eating?
An example of the sugar content of common lunchbox items includes:
This calculated together is 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in a standard lunchbox, meaning in one meal, a child under 4yrs, will have exceeded their daily intake by 1.5 teaspoons.
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We know that fussy eating (not just for toddlers) is not uncommon. Children refuse to eat certain foods, eat a very limited range of food or refuse to eat at all. The following things may help:
What if I need more help?
If you need further help and support, speak your health visitor and/or GP.