“My kid is a fussy eater!”
How many times have you heard that from parents? I bet more than you can remember.
Now that dialogue isn’t new to us, especially the mothers of toddlers or preschoolers. We all have surpassed that phase (some of us might still be going through) when kids make life and parenting a huge challenge. Often as parents, when we see ourselves failing to meet our kids’ basic need of eating (forget about healthy eating), then we plunge in guilt mode, sometimes driving ourselves to an overwhelming state!
Sometimes we persistently stay after our kids’ lives, coaxing, cajoling, negotiating to even threatening at times, to make them eat healthy, while sometimes, we simply give up, surrender, handle the job to another caregiver, or resort to the glitzy, packaged food, all in the name of feeding the child something healthy and tasteful.
The latter is when we, the parents, unconsciously expose the kids to a lifelong threat of serious health issues. Processed and packaged foods, laden with high salt, sugar and added preservatives hamper a child’s health more than anything else. No matter, how much the marketing strategy and advertisements propagate and position the product as healthy and beneficial, its nutritional element is tampered with.
Hence, feeding children home cooked, fresh food is far better than the packaged version of the same. I know it’s a pain to do all that slogging, especially when your kid is a fussy eater, but it’s better that they eat little of home cooked food rather than tons of packaged food, all in the name of eating well! It doesn’t matter how less he/she eats, at least you are sure that he is eating healthy food (right out of your kitchen).
However, if still “proper eating” is an issue with home cooked food, then let me share some interesting ideas, which sometimes work well with my kid!
- Fusion food: Well, this is combing your version of healthy food with your child’s version of ‘good food’! In short, providing health and nutrition, but packaged in the form of your kids’ delight food. My son loves having egg fried rice (minus all veggies), so I often toss veggies (to the tune of broccoli and beetroot, finely chopped) and whip it with some eggs to make an omelet first and then shred them and toss it with rice to make that egg fried rice. Voila! It works perfect! Sometimes, I whip veggies (finely shredded) into an omelet with some cooked oats and feed him as breakfast as well. Since he loves egg in any form, my work becomes easy! My son loves his share of parathas, so the lentils and veggies also sometimes find their way into them without much of struggle!
- Create your food into something funny: Making the food look brighter and funny is another way of coaxing kids to eat! Although, it might make them play with it for some time, but an interesting storytelling (which you as it is might be doing) around the food will help them eat well. For instance, I use a lot of interesting muffin molds like butterfly, house, flower, bees etc. to make breakfast muffins or sometimes to layer rice and veggies together. It makes the food look neat, gives a shape and it helps to weave a story too. Similarly making a colorful display of fruits and veggies together into smiley face over a slice of bread or paratha can do wonders.
- Reading them books on healthy eating: Books like “Hungry Caterpillar”, “The boy who loved broccoli”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “How did that get in my lunchbox” etc. are some interesting reads for preschoolers and early elementary school kids to ignite that idea behind healthy eating. My son loves “Hungry Caterpillar” and so often, it helps me identify how the caterpillar felt sick after eating so much junk food, but felt better with something green! Plus these books also help the child identify the source of the food or where it comes from!
- Making games: Creating games are a fun way of keeping your child stay alert and attentive to his food on plate. “Where do I come from” is an interesting way to help the child learn about the source of the food. Keep catalogues of food products and make your own healthy book with cutouts of healthy foods and unhealthy ones and help them identify the good and bad choices of food. If your child loves to talk, they enjoy the activity by pointing out all.
- Cooking together: Making something together like a healthy snack or breakfast can be a great way of pushing your child to eat it! I sometimes try fruit smoothies or yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit popsicles with my son and he stays thrilled to try them eventually! Even baking muffins and cakes is a big hit and I often get help by way of whipping eggs or mixing the batter!
- Give names to foods: Another story telling feature, and it works wonders when I tell do that with my son. For instance, when I say Spinny, the spinach, is sad because nobody likes to eat him, my son eats him, but with another add-on friend from his plate!
- Apps: Although, I’m not telling the parents to try this right at the dinner time, but post or pre-dinner, playing some fun food games on app can be a motivation to eat healthy! Try apps like “Healthy food monsters”, “Healthy Heroes” (if your kid loves adventure), “Healthy eating with Diana”( uses puzzles, coloring and games to teach) and ABC Foods. These apps are a fun filled way of teaching your child about the joy of eating healthy, while taking in a lot of your headache around your child’s fussy eating habits.
With these tips you can definitely inch a little closer to your mission “Healthy Eating” for your child. However, if you are the one who is indulging in binge eating, then every attempt to make your child eat healthy, will go ‘kaput’! Hence, practice before your preach and steer clear of the junk or better chuck them out, so that he sees only healthy, nutritious food and gradually grows inclination towards the same. Remember, “A child who sees junk will eventually eat junk”, so do the needful and help your child and yourself!
With the needful and with the mentioned ideas, you might soon end up feeling like a competent parent! And I’m sure, that as parents, we will do anything and everything to generate that feeling in us! Till then, stay healthy, stay sane and you will win!