Convincing children to eat their vegetables can be like trying to convince a drunk friend it’s time to go home (if you can cast your mind back to your child-free youth for a moment). They will almost definitely resist both verbally and physically, there are often tears over lost loves, tantrums about not being understood properly and shoes might get lost in the mayhem but in the long-run, they’ll thank you for it. It’s the age-old battle between mothers and children and while I have by no means nailed it and a day rarely passes without my daughter having a ‘choccie button’ or two, here are a few tricks that I have picked up along the way:
1) Give them the good stuff when they are at their most hungry. At dinner time, I put a plate of finger-food veggies (broccoli, carrots, raw peppers) down in front of my daughter while I make her dinner. She is always hungry at this time and rarely patient, so the veggies go while the dinner is cooking. For the morning and afternoon snacks, I try to offer cut-up fruit before anything else in the hope this will be establishing good habits for them later in life.
2) Teach them about where their food comes from. I take my daughter to our local farmers market most weekends and let her choose some fruit and vegetables for the week. She likes being involved in the shopping process and I like her seeing the seasonal produce in its natural form (ie not packaged / pre-cut)
3) Hide them! Smoothies, muffins, pasta sauces and even burgers (see recipes below) can be a great way of sneaking more vegetables into your little one’s diet.
4) Lead by example. Up to a certain age, kids like to copy their parents (until around the age of 11 when I gather anything we do will disgust them). If they see you eating fruit and vegetables everyday that becomes the imprint for what is normal in their impressionable minds.
5) Don’t fight it. Don’t make meal times a battle; if they refuse carrots / broccoli / courgettes one night, rather than driving yourself potty aeroplane-ing it in, just try again a few days later. Mealtimes will become a horrible battle of wills otherwise and toddlers seem to be tenacious well beyond their years when it comes to these things.
I read a lot of books ahead of weaning my first baby and thoroughly confused myself about what to give my baby when. Ultimately, in my opinion, kids need to fill up on good, wholesome, natural foods as much as possible but there has to be some room for the occasion treat.
2 x skinless chicken breasts (organic if your budget will stretch to it)
One big handful of baby spinach leaves
A good splash of sesame oil
A good splash of low-salt soy sauce or tamari
Finely diced garlic and ginger (optional)
Put all the ingredients into a blender and whiz until smooth (if the thought of mincing chicken at home doesn’t appeal you can buy it from the supermarket pre-minced, but I haven’t found a good organic one yet). Form the mixture into eight small burgers, about ¾ inch thick.
Heat a grill or non-stick pan over a medium heat. Rub each burger on both sides with some sesame oil and grill for about eight minutes on the first side and five on the second or until firm to touch and properly cooked through.
I usually serve this with sweet potato wedges and steamed broccoli and so far its been a hit with kids and parents.
Carrot and raisin loaf (this one I stole from Deliciously Ella)
2 overripe bananas
2tbsp coconut oil (plus a little extra for greasing)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla powder
6 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat oven to 200C (180 Fan)/400F/gas mark 6.
Grate the carrots and apples into a large mixing bowl
Mash the bananas with a fork and add them to the mixing bowl
Grind the oats into a flour in a food processor
Melt the coconut oil until it turns into a liquid
Mix all the ingredients together
Grease a loaf tin with coconut oil, then add the mix to the tin and bake for 25 minutes. Let it cool for 15 minutes to finish setting.
-Louisa Parker Bowles, mother of 2 sweet little ladies
originally from Sydney, Australia