7 QUICK AND EASY WAYS TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT BETTER
By Jodi Bartle
Healthy eating and kids - what an oxymoron.
Remember those wistful, idealised, pre-birth days, your belly huge with a wriggling as-yet-unknown baby, poring over pregnancy magazines with food articles written by the Annabel Karmels of the world?
The deep-dives into the do’s and don’ts of feeding your kids and toddlers, with ambitious recipes for baby-friendly versions of mashed up lasagne and minestrone soup?
Remember batch cooking, and fretting over non-organic carrots in the first weaning weeks, and the terrible feeling when you realised that every other baby and toddler seemed to eat better than yours did?
The guilt when yours threw the avocado onto the floor and demanded a biscuit?
There’s a seasoned parenting point when you make your peace with all of this - all of the individual quirks and qualms of your kid’s appetites and palate, when you decide that plain pasta and one circle of cucumber for a straight week won’t actually matter that much in the long run.
You notice that after your kids get used to nursery and school dinners, that a lot of the fussiness they display at home is forgotten in the collective, organised structure of Somewhere Else Other Than Home. Except for maybe restaurants - mine have always decided that the best way to annoy my husband and I is to kick off in public, but that’s another story.
Once they grow up, you just have to hope that your good, healthy-eating role modelling has taken root somewhere, in amongst those early years of refused vegetables, painstakingly disguised pureed spinach added to everything, and the bits of sausages they’ve hidden in their pockets and later given to the dog.
Until then, though, us parents have a role to play in the lifelong challenge to get our kids to eat well and to develop their own healthy eating habits. A good relationship with food starts at home, when they are tiny, and until the kids are old enough to know your pin number, the food choices they make are up to us.
Over the years and over (soon to be) six kids, I have learnt a few things.
Firstly, it helps to have a whole lot of good food in your fridge and cupboards - fresh foods, a variety of in-season vegetables, and a good balanced mix of all the rest - so that your family’s healthy food choices and snacks are led not by panic-buying or fast food outlet walk-ins but by what’s in the fruit bowl, available at any time.
To help with this, since the kids were little we have used an organic food delivery service every week. Farmdrop (with the lovely zeitgeist-y tagline being “The Ethical Grocer”) offers a grocery service that sources from independent smaller farmers, growers and bakers.
The food is sourced locally as much as possible with fairer rates paid to suppliers, and there is a full range of fresh produce, fruit, vegetables, free-range meat and cupboard staples delivered to your place.
We’ve grown used to opening our front door every Wednesday morning to find a new delivery, and the kids get straight into the box and devour half of it before it makes it into the kitchen.
My regular order has always meant I’ve got the onions, carrots, apples and bananas that I will need throughout the week without needing to top up - cutting down the extra trips to the supermarket which usually leads me to spending more than I would have on low-blood-sugar hangry impulse buys, and which also cuts down on supermarket plastic.
We also add weekly staples, the things I know we will need such as milk, tinned tomatoes, eggs and cheese, so that the kids always have something to graze on - toasted organic cheddar on rye bread with fresh tomatoes, anyone?
The prices are comparable to supermarket costs and in a nod to sustainability, the food supplier source is aimed to be within a 150 mile radius to where you live where possible. Delivery is by 100% electric vans, so you can feel better about the footprint, too.
Other ideas to keep the enamel on the teeth, the post-school fried chicken boxes to a minimum and the vegetable consumption to be more than a weekly stray carrot stick are these:
Offer your kids chopped up apples and cucumber straight after school for the walk home. They’ll probably, mindlessly, quite like it, and it will fill them up pre-dinner on the salad requirements without them even knowing. If you get more into them at dinner, it’s a bonus.
Keep your fruit bowl in the middle of the table, within easy reach of even the smallest, and keep it topped up and colourful to reset the idea of what really is a healthy snack for kids. Restock little and often, try the more outre weekly seasonal offerings from Farmdrop to keep the kids on their toes and to encourage them to try different things. Use any half eaten apples and pears for a simple weekly apple cake (and get them to make it).
Always offer a selection of chopped up carrots, peppers, celery and hummus whenever they start to get peckish - this makes a quick and easy snack for children. Add chopped fruit/veg to their water. Make a crudite platter part of every evening’s meal - if they eat a bit of that, who cares if they wholeheartedly reject your fish pie/chicken casserole/vegetarian tacos?
Involve the kids in chopping and slicing and stirring and menu planning as much as you can stand to. It makes a difference to their enthusiasm; they are much more capable than you’d think and it will teach them how to make their own healthy snacks when you aren’t around to supervise. We hosted a Bonfire Night party for friends this November and our 10 year old made a pumpkin pie from scratch and the 12 year old perfected his signature massive Sausage Roll. A little bit of adult supervision, a lot of trust and all the adoration from hungry family and friends will make firm, life-long chefs out of them yet.
Eat communally as much as you can. Lay your table with various healthy options (fresh Farmdrop-sourced loaves warmed in the oven, a simple salad, free-range roasted chicken) and let the kids serve themselves and each other.
Keep the TV off during meals (this is a non-negotiable in our house) because it means that everyone pays attention to what is going into their mouths and gives everyone the chance to talk.
Try baby-led weaning - give your baby a cucumber stick and let him or her mouth away at it. There is always room for frozen batch cooking or pureed pouches, but nothing sets a child up quite as well as getting familiar and comfortable with fresh, farm-to-plate vegetables and fruits.
We have teamed up with Farmdrop to offer THE LONDON MOTHER readers an exclusive discount code!
Get £25 off your first order (new customers only, minimum spend £60). To get your discount, simply enter TLM25 at checkout.
What tips do you have for healthy eating for kids?