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How to get your kids to eat their vegetables

I remember vividly when the fussy stage of eating hit us. We went from a toddler who very happily ate absolutely everything I gave him, to a stressful monster who only wanted to eat the same tiny selection of foods over and over and over.

Three and a bit years later, while Nicholas generally eats a wider variety of foods (thank goodness!), the range of vegetables he’s happy to eat is MUCH smaller than I’d like. I don’t stress about it… well not in front of him… but I definitely dream of the day when my child is no longer fussy. Please let it be before he moves out!

Feeding My Kid made a super helpful infographic with lots of useful tips to keep you sane when dealing with the challenge of a picky eater who refuses to eat their veg.  And for even more practical advice, read How to Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables by my paediatrician friend Dr Orlena Kerek.

Do you have a fussy eater? What’s worked for you? 

fussy eater guide help

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How to get your kids to eat… vegetables (guest post)

I’m delighted to have a guest post today from Dr Orlena Kerek, a paediatrician and mother of 4 young children (still small enough to fit in the bath together, just).

Orlena blogs about raising healthy happy children at snotty-noses.com. She has a special interest in helping children eat a healthy diet, and she’s giving us some great practical advice today. You can also sign up to her newsletter and get a free copy of 30 Tips to get your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables which I can’t recommend enough!

Dr Orlena Kerek

“Yummy, thank you so much for my delicious plate of vegetable pasta,”says my 5 year old as he politely asks to be excused from the table and proceeds to put his plate into the dishwasher. Ha ha! If only! If you have young children and they’re anything like mine, meal times can be one of those stress points of the day. It’s not that they aren’t polite. They’re just tired and hungry and don’t really want to eat their vegetables. They like to pick out the bits they like, namely the pasta around here. Children are noisy, boisterous and like to do things their way. And that’s fine. As parents, we just have to learn to work around them.

So, if your toddler, who used to eat perfectly, is going through a phase when they refuse point blank to even touch a pea or carrot, despair not! There are ways to gently encourage your toddler back into healthy eating.

Firstly, look at the bigger picture. In the short run, it doesn’t really matter what they eat. Constipation aside, they aren’t going to come to any great harm if they spend a few days eating nothing but pasta and cake. My 1 year old son once went on chocolate hunger strike when we went to grandmother’s for Christmas. She assured me that the chocolate decorations were too high for him to reach. Hmm, that wasn’t the case and he happily helped himself and refused to eat anything else for 3 days. He lived to tell the tale and now at nearly 6 eats such dangerous monsters as lettuce, cabbage and broccoli.

The plan is to teach your little ones to develop healthy eating habits. Ultimately you do want them to be eating a healthy balanced diet and if they get used to healthy food from an early age they’ll just think of it as ‘food’. It will be what they are used to and what they’ll feed themselves and hopefully their children when they’re old enough to take care of themselves.

It’s getting the balance right that can be difficult.

My top tips are firstly, don’t shout or argue with them. The more you shout and scream, the more they’ll dig their heals in and refuse to eat the offending item. They will come to resent you, and food will become an issue for them. But once you’ve let go of the idea that they have to eat their vegetables all the time, you won’t need to feel that you have to shout.

Make food fun. Need I say more? I think Anne has covered that one for me.

Offer them a range of healthy things to eat. This works a treat and recently I managed to get my 3 year old to eat celery with this method. Yep, I’ll confess I was shocked (I’d only really put it out for me). He said he liked it, it was his favourite taste, it was just a bit chewy for him. I suspect he won’t be so keen next time, but it won’t be on his ‘off list’.

Getting the balance right between food children like and don’t like is also difficult. Sometimes they genuinely don’t like something. Sometimes they just think they don’t like it. My children claim not to like aubergine or courgette, except they eat it at least twice a week without any fuss. Allow them to not like some things. Ignore them when you know they’re being fickle. (I wouldn’t get a single meal past the committee if I actually listened to all those cries of ‘yuck, not pasta again’, but 5 minutes later, it’s clean plates all around).

Keeping a food diary is another great idea. Children often eat in fits and starts. It doesn’t really matter if they eat lots of vegetables in the morning and then carbohydrates in the afternoon. A food diary is a great way to see what they are actually eating and to highlight sneaky snacks that mean they aren’t hungry at dinner time.

And talking of snacks, snacking is fine as long as it’s not always cake and biscuits. Young children fine it really hard to go the long times in between meals that adults do. They have smaller stomachs that get full up more quickly. And emptied more quickly. So let them snack on healthy things and keep treats as treats.

Healthy eating can seem like a huge mountain to climb, especially when your 2 year old shakes their head and says “no, no, no”. But keep calm and with a realistic approach you’ll get there in the end.

For more fabulous tips, sign up to my mailing list to receive 30 Tips to get your Kids to Eat and Love Vegetables.

Making Food Fun… Easily

Making Food FunToday I’m very honoured to be guest blogging over at Snotty Noses, the wonderful blog of Dr Orlena Kerek, a mum of four and a paediatrition.

I’ve written a post with, hopefully, useful and easy ideas for making food fun for your little ones, encouraging them to eat more.

Read my post here.

Cupcake inspiration

It’s the last day of National Cupcake Week. I haven’t managed to make any more worth blogging about, but wanted to share some inspiring ones (and they’re super cute too!) that I can’t wait to try when Nicholas is just a teeny bit bigger.

The Mini Mes and MeSpace Cupcakes

Check out lovely Emma’s blog (I love the title!) for her fizzy flying saucers and edible glitter sitting on chocolate ganache. What kid (little or big) wouldn’t love these?!

Cindy Littlefield’s Squirt Happy Turtles

A few jelly sweets turn ordinary cupcakes into something super cute.

Annabel Karmel’s Piggy Cupcakes

A few marshmallows and some writing icing are all you need to create some piggies (and don’t forget the curly tails!).

Baking Bites – Rainbow Cupcakes

By dividing up the batter and colouring it different rainbow colours, you can easily create the happiest cupcakes.

Daily Dish Blog – Mummy Cupcakes

Shari at Daily Dish Blog found the perfect cupcakes to make  for Halloween (there aren’t any directions, but a few lines of white icing and some mini MandMs are all you need).

Update (22 Nov 2012): I finally found the original source for these cute mummy cupcakes and what’s even better is they’re low-fat! Gina at Skinny taste has detailed instructions, so now there’s no excuse not to make them!

Martha Stewart’s Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

Melting a marshmallow into the top is a super simple and super yummy way to finish your cupcakes.

Sugar-free apple pikelets

I’ve now whipped up three batches of apple sauce (or applesauce as Americans seem to use). Like most things, the more times you do it the easier it gets and I now feel like I know what I’m doing!

I thought I’d try it out this time as a sweetener in my banana pikelet recipe, replacing the honey. I still have a few banana pikelets in the freezer so I made apple pikelets this time using grated apple. I also meant to add some sultanas to the batter, but my mind drifted onto other things and I forgot. Oh well, there’s always a next time!

Pikelets are small pancakes and are perfect for children to cook when they’re old enough to start doing supervised things in the kitchen. They’d also be a good way to get kids to experiment with different flavour combinations.

These pikelets, like my banana pikelets, aren’t super sweet. You could add some honey to the batter or serve them drizzled with honey or, if you’re not worried about them being sugar-free, add 1/4 cup of sugar to the batter. And don’t worry if you don’t have bicarbonate of soda, as they work just as well without.

Pop the leftovers in the freezer to have for breakfast or a snack another day.

SUGAR-FREE APPLE PIKELETS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes about 20
Freezable

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 sweet apple, grated
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
small piece of butter, melted, to grease the pan

Sift flour, bicarbonate and cinnamon into a medium-sized bowl. Add grated apple, apple sauce and egg, and mix to combine. Gradually add the milk until you get a fairly thick batter (you might not need to add all the milk).

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and brush with melted butter. Use a tablespoon to drop the mixture into the pan. Cook in batches, turning when bubbles appear on the surface (1-2 mins). Cook the other side until golden brown (about 1 min). Lift out and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Variations:

  • add sultanas or raisins to the batter
  • use other fruit instead of the grated apple (mashed banana, whole blueberries, mashed strawberries, etc.)

Tip: Wipe your pan clean with a piece of paper towel after each batch and then brush with some more melted butter.

Super easy and fast creamy spinach pasta sauce

This is one of the easiest meals to cook. Not counting the pasta you serve it over, there are two ingredients. Two. What could be more basic than that?!

I can’t remember where I came across this fabulous way of wilting spinach. It probably is just as quick to wilt it in a pan if I really think about it, but doing it this way feels like it’s much quicker. And you don’t have a pan to wash. Try it and if it seems quicker then that’s my time-saving tip for you for the day!

To keep it super easy and fast I haven’t weighed the spinach, just grabbed a handful. You could use any type of cream (double is what I had in the fridge) and the amount you use really depends on how creamy you want the sauce. Exact measurements aren’t important here. Just relax and go with your cooking instincts.

SUPER EASY AND FAST CREAMY PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 0 mins 🙂
Makes 1 toddler serving

1 large handful of fresh spinach
1-2 tbsp double cream

Fill up your kettle and turn it on. Put the spinach in a colander. Pour over half of the boiling water holding the colander over the sink. Push the spinach down with a spoon to drain it. Pour the rest of the boiling water over and drain as much as you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chop the spinach and put it in a small bowl. Add 1 tbsp cream and mix to combine. Add more cream if you wish.

Serve over cooked pasta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations: none this time because any variation I can think of makes this a bit more time-consuming and we don’t want that!

Other uses:

  • serve over rice
  • use as a crepe filling

Do you have any time-saving tips to share?

 

Using a straw

We decided to have dinner out at the last minute at the weekend. When we asked the waitress for some water to refill Nicholas’ travel cup, she brought us a takeaway coffee cup with a straw, something they do for all of their little clients.

I had one of those mummy moments where you think ‘I’ve never thought of doing that. Am I the only mummy who hasn’t thought of that? Why has that never occurred to me?!’ This was quickly followed by ‘We haven’t taught him how to use a straw. He’s never seen a straw. Will he be able to use it?!’

Now that I think about it, I have seen baby sippy cups with straws, but for some reason they never made an impact on my brain. We went breast, then bottle with teat, followed by bottle with spout and cup simultaneously. Nicholas still sometimes drinks camomile tea from a bottle with a spout, but has water and milk from a variety of cups.

Up until a month or two ago, we struggled getting Nicholas to drink. He loves his doidy cup and gives an excited giggle when he sees it, but usually after a couple of sips he wants to put his hands inside and splash the liquid. I don’t have a problem with him making a mess, but once he starts doing this he doesn’t want to keep drinking.

A friend bought us a wonderful non-spill cup that I call his travel cup. It’s difficult to describe, and I haven’t yet managed to find the exact same one online, but you can suck from the edge all the way around. This has really encouraged Nicholas to drink more. In fact, we no longer need to remind him to drink! Except when it comes to milk…

He refused to drink milk through a spouted bottle, and his hands seem to go inside the cup faster when it’s milk rather than water. All I’ve been getting him to have is a few sips of milk each time.

So since the weekend I’ve used the novelty of a straw to encourage him to drink some more milk. And so far it’s working a treat. I know the general advice is to get your baby drinking out of a cup as soon as possible, but being able to suck through a straw is another good skill to have, right?

I’m not using my ‘trick’ every day to keep the novelty factor going, and we still drink from the cup normally.

Oh, and how did he manage drinking with a straw for the first time? After two or three seconds of blowing, he started sucking. No problem!