Remember the days
when you were small and had to remain at the dinner table as long as it took to
finish those sprouts or swallow that chewy meat? Many of us share similar,
scarring mealtime memories, and we've promised ourselves to never inflict the
same ordeals on our own children.
But as parents, we want the best for our
kids, and our primary concern is their healthy upbringing. So when they stop
eating what we want them to, and start making their own choices about their
food intake—which, for some, excludes vegetables altogether—we get worried and
resort to behaviors ranging from frustration to force-feeding.
Here are some tips how to deal with
children who refuse to eat (well), and some recipes that you can try out along
Persevere and be patient!
If your child
accepted all sorts of food as a baby, and now doesn’t want to touch any
vegetables as a toddler, rest assured that this is not unusual. Children change
their preferences and behaviors towards food as they grow up. They will accept
more and new flavors in the future, or re-discover foods that they once ate.
Don’t feel bad to cook them their favorite, tried-and-tested meals.
But also continue to
dish up new meals, or let them try what you are eating, and continue to offer
things they have refused in the past. One day, they may eat it. Never lose
faith, and don’t get disgruntled if they refuse!
Hide the veggies!
Vegetables, served as
a side dish, can be rather unexciting, even for us adults. For kids, you may
need to get extra creative to ensure vegetables are integrated properly and
consumed in plentitude. Even though we may value a floret of broccoli more than
mash or purée, consistency may be the key as to why your kids don’t eat it. Soups,
as well as smoothies and homemade fruit and vegetable juices are a great way to
incorporate more veggies.
Breads and cakes can
be enhanced with even more fruit and vegetables in exchange for sugar. Grated carrots
and kohlrabi, puréed leeks, or mashed up sweetcorn can be added to pancake
batter, and your kids will eat those flavorsome savory versions gladly (even
Alter the way you serve food!
Especially small children and toddlers can
feel overwhelmed by big portions, even if they like the food in front of them.
Serving up a meal in a new way will raise their interest, and add an element of
fun and exploration. Try smaller portions, serve ingredients in separate
bowls—or the opposite, mashed together. Offer a “proper” plate and “proper”
metal cutlery, or serve fingerfood for a change.
Serve junk food—healthy and homemade!
Your kids bounce up and down when you drive
past a fast food restaurant? Offer them the same deal at home. Chicken nuggets,
fish sticks, pizza, burgers, chips, and milkshakes—all is possible when it is
homemade. Try sweet potato chips for a change, make your burger patties
vegetarian, or simply use the freshest and best ingredients.
Get your kids cooking!
Your children will develop a good
understanding of food and may accept new ingredients if they are involved in
the cooking process. Hardly any child does not enjoy swinging a whisk, kneading
dough, chopping up some veg, or laying out pizza toppings. Obviously, they need
to be supervised and it can get messy, but it will be worth it when you see
them eating the fruit of their labor.
Don’t underestimate your kids’ taste buds!
Don't presume that
you know the absolute range of your child's accepted tastes and flavors. I was
once surprised to see my one-year-old push away his bowl of pasta and spoon
down my spicy bulgur salad!
Even if you don’t want to cook a meal that you doubt they will eat, make your own food accessible to them. Sit down and eat at the same time. Let them try what you’re having. And be brave to offer a new dish without any alternative options every once in a while.
Think outside the box!
If you really struggle to get any decent
food into your child, ask yourself if there is anything you have not tried yet.
Cut endearing shapes such as cucumber crowns or radish mice. Ask your
competitive child whether their food can go to their brother
or sister. Challenge your kids to eat with chopsticks.
Relax and don’t force
them into eating, as this may disturb their relationship with certain foods
further. Don’t worry if they skip a meal. Your child may be growing a new
tooth, developing a sore throat, or simply isn’t hungry. It isn’t always
necessary to offer an alternative meal. Trust your kids’ judgements and your
own instincts as a parent.
Any tricks we’ve missed? Share your
experiences by commenting below! If you have a recipe your kids adore, we’d
love to publish it on Kitchen Stories. Simply send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Published on July 10, 2017