26. STICK TO REAL FOOD
Convenience foods are often enhanced with high amounts of sugar, salt and other flavourings. This makes them an instant ‘hit’ with the taste buds. If your child has a lot of this type of food, their palate will get accustomed to it, expect it, want it. The true taste and texture of food will seem less appealing. The more you cook from scratch, the easier, quicker and more automatic it becomes. Rather than fighting against it, try to enjoy the process! ‘When you are reducing convenience foods, don’t be tempted to try to mimic foods like chicken nuggets with your own home-made versions – you won’t be able to make them taste the same! Instead, try new chicken dishes and give your children time to get used to the new flavours.
27. MAKE THE DINNER TABLE A HAPPY, RELAXED, TOGETHER PLACE TO BE
When called to the table, our children should come with a spring in their step and a good feeling – whatever food we’re serving! Take a close look at your family routine. Where could you fit in more meals together? Could you drop or rearrange some of your children’s after-school activities? Could you rejiggle your work routine at all? Could you squeeze more family meals in at the weekend? We really need to make eating together a priority for so many reasons. Try to make meals as leisurely as possible too. We have a tendency to be quite functional about mealtimes. They should be as much about family togetherness and conversation as eating: a respite from our often busy and chaotic lives.
28. INVOLVE THEM IN THE COOKING – EVEN IF IT IS A HASSLE
Children are much more likely to try something that they’ve helped you make or made themselves. And they can’t cook something without getting up close to the ingredients, handling them, smelling them – so it’s another way to expose them to different foods. Children are much more likely to try something that they’ve helped you make or made themselves. And they can’t cook something without getting up close to the ingredients, handling them, smelling them – so it’s another way to expose them to different foods.
29. HAVE FUN AND ADVENTURES WITH FOOD
Here is a mix of ideas from quick, low-key activities to whole days out:
•Go to a farmer’s market and try all the tasters on offer together, however exotic (garlic cheese, watercress soup, venison and cranberry sausage!). Give each one a mark out of ten.
•Let young children weigh and price all the vegetables and fruit you’re buying on the scales in the supermarket – even if it takes up a little more time
•Go to children’s food festivals or one of the many other festivals focused on food – cheese, garlic, fish, Thai, slow food and so on.
•Grow vegetables and fruit – there are lots of small, ready-to-grow kits available if you’re not the green-fingered type.
•Give your child a blindfold taste test. Prepare lots of tiny tasters (peanut butter, cheese, a piece of carrot). Pop them in their mouth one by one and see if they can guess what each food is.
•Teach them how to use chopsticks or let them eat their dinner with ‘children’s chopsticks’ which are like tongs (you can often get these from a noodle bar).
•Surprise them with a candlelit dinner.
•Have an indoor picnic in the living room for lunch – or let them have one under the table..
•Go to different nationality restaurants. Conveyer-belt sushi restaurants are really fun – and they’re not all sushi!
•Cook with your children using vegetables in bizarre, but delicious ways, like beetroot and chocolate muffins or courgette cupcakes. The idea isn’t to trick them into eating vegetables but to introduce vegetables through an activity they’ll find fun.
•Check out all the different types of fish at the fish counter or fishmonger with your children.
•Have ‘international meal’ nights at home. How about a Japanese meal sitting on the floor?
•Let your child choose a completely new food to try from the supermarket, from a different category each week (a cheese, a fruit, a soup).
•Buy a ‘Lazy Susan’ rotating tray for your dinner table.
There should – as always – be no pressure to eat anything. Keep it light, laugh, let the stress go. Just enjoy
30. BE PATIENT, BE CONSISTENT
Even when you get to the point where fussiness isn’t really an issue anymore, don’t stop following the rules. Make them permanent or fussiness will gradually creep back in. Be careful your child doesn’t receive mixed messages from different carers. If your child is looked after by a child-minder, nursery or grandparents for example, talk to them about your approach to eating and ask them to do the same as you. Make sure your partner is fully on board too!