Health & Wellbeing

Feeding the Family – 9 Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Meals

We know it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It's one of the first things we learn at school; with colourful posters, classroom cress and cautionary tales about eating too many sweets. However, we soon grow up and realise the world is a place of complex challenges.

Lengthy work hours lead to erratic mealtimes. Picky eaters test temperaments at the dinner table. As most families can attest, it's easy to fall into unhealthy habits. Click to find out why the health and fitness of Britain's children is in decline.

Today, we're discussing the best ways to get back on track and give your children a diet that's delicious and nutritious.

No Power Struggles

At mealtimes, make it clear you're the one in control. It's not easy to refuse kids who yell or cry but it's the best way to change bad habits. The worst thing that can happen to a child who refuses to eat is a hungry tummy. The cure? Eating what they've been given.

Get the Kids Involved

Often, children are willing to try new foods if they've helped select them. By offering choices, you show healthy routines are not about forcing kids to eat 'nasty' things. It's okay to find cauliflower icky, say, but they need to pick a sensible alternative.

Ditch the Children's Menu

One mistake we're all guilty of is limiting children to kid's menus in restaurants. It tells them, there are lots of ingredients you don't need to like or even try. It's better to let children make ambitious choices. Ordering appetisers is a good way to try 'grown up' food in manageable portions.

Make Eating Special

Eating together at the same time every night can be tricky. But it could transform your family's perspective on food. No phones. No TV. Instead, just chat and reconnect. Make dinnertime a special occasion and kids will look forward to it. Is that sneaky snack worth a spoiled appetite when dinner is on the way?

According to this Canadian study on family dining, children who eat meals with their parents experience physical and mental health benefits. 

Celebrate Slow Eaters

If your kids wolf down every meal, congrats on cooking fantastic food! Unfortunately, gulping down meals is an easy way to overeat. It takes 20mins for a belly to feel full. So, to avoid tummy aches and weight gain, encourage kids to take it slow. Leisurely eaters can be trying, but avoid the urge to chastise or punish.

Always Serve Veggies

Serve at least one vegetable with every meal. Ideally, there should be more, but picky eaters may progress slowly. Don't be afraid to get sneaky. Hide mushrooms and broccoli on homemade pizza. Add spinach to pasta sauce. Grate carrot into chilli con carne. Boost mashed potato with spring onions. Slip peas and sweetcorn into chunky soups. 

Don't Forget the Drinks

Keep a close eye on what kids drink at mealtimes. Water and milk are the best choices. Fruit juices and fizzy sodas are packed with sugar and empty calories. They're fine as an occasional treat, but consumption needs to be controlled. Sugar is a leading cause of child obesity.

Identify the Enablers

It's common for extended family members to undermine healthy eating routines. Breaking this habit can be hard, but it's vital for families with weight issues. Sit down with the sneaky snack giver (grandparents, neighbours, babysitters) and explain your goals. If they like to use food as a reward, suggest different ways to praise.

Give Yourself a Treat Day

You don't need to give up the foods you love to eat healthier. Your family could, for example, eat healthy six days a week and enjoy a treat (ice cream, cake, French fries) on the seventh. Kids shouldn't feel like fatty and sugary treats are banned. They're not forbidden. They're special.

For more tips on healthy eating and raising physically active kids, follow @MyAmaven. Or, click to read our blog on maintaining family fitness in school holidays!