Busy Mum’s Guide To….Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthily

Tempting your kids to eat healthy with aSmiling face made from vegetables

Sometimes Busy Mum is even too busy herself, so this week we welcome Neil Welsh giving us his guide to getting your kids to eat the healthy foods you want them to!

Food was a very different experience pre-kids. We had time on our hands and could pretty much eat anything we wanted at any time. Dinners could be late and full of flavour. Flicking through a cookbook opened a world of opportunity. Now dinner tend to be early… and not full of flavour. Family dinners kind of sneak up on us slowly. One minute mum is “eating for two”, then weaning might involve some purees or finger foods and simple solids and then before we know it we have two (often ungrateful) kids that we are catering for on a daily basis! How did that happen and where was my training!? Before we know it, we are cooking family meals every night, often giving more consideration to the tastes and nutrition of our kids, rather than ourselves. The real trick is to ensure that the way that our families eat is a win win for both parents and kids

Here’s how to cook healthy food that you want to eat and get your kids to eat it too.

Have the conversation

If your kids are used to a weekly rotation of solid favourites then there needs to be a conversation that things are going to change. There will still be plenty of bolognaise, burgers, fajitas and pasta but there will also be some new variations. Some changes will be immediately obvious but nothing drastic… at first. Drastic change will come over the coming weeks.

Division of responsibility

This is the theory that parents are in charge of what food is served and when, whilst kids are in charge of what and how much they eat. As adults, it is very easy to get blinkered at meal times and take the role of the enforcer at the dinner table with our kids playing the part of the resistor. We are fixated with getting our kids to eat the arbitrary amount of food we put on their plates for that meal. Stop it! Give a child their meal and let them eat what they want and leave what they don’t want. Bite your tongue if they don’t eat anything, that’s fine. Concentrate on the big picture; what they eat over a 24-48 hour period. Chances are that they are not going to waste away if the hardly touch their dinners.

Everyone eats the same

Now that everyone knows the rules, be sure to serve the same to everyone. If someone doesn’t like something then they don’t need to eat it, but do encourage tasting. Asking a child to taste something is very different to asking them to eat it. Putting it in their mouths and then spitting it out (as politely as possible) is fine, this is the building block of trying new things. Always try to include a food that you know your kids will like, but don’t load up on it. At meal times, try serving tray bakes and serving boards / platters where kids can help themselves to what they want. This is a great technique to empower kids to take control of their food choices, take what they need/want and even work on some fine motor skills if you are happy for your kids to take charge of cutting pies, etc. for themselves.

Clear out the junk

Eating healthily as adults is not just about eating well at meal times. It is also about what you eat (or don’t eat) in between meals and we all know that self control is not always that reliable. Our food choices are only as good as the options we have. If you have food in your house that you know is not doing your health any good then get rid of it. Sorting out the way you and your family eat can have a profound impact on your lives…. and can also lead to weight loss without even having to enter a gym. Start now. Get those foods that you know are not helping you and throw them away. Start now. Now I hate food waste but if a small about of food waste can lead to a big change in the way that you eat then it is worth it. If you have a box or draw full of Quavers, Dairy Milk, Haribo, M&Ms, Hula Hoops, Kettle Chips, Lindt chocolate balls, etc then bin the lot, now. If there is lots of it, take it to a food bank but remember; you are not a dustbin, don’t put it inside yourself! Next time you shop, replace those items with healthy snacks.

Know your hedonic foods

Ok, don’t panic, this is not the part where I say sugar is bad and it’s no more chocolate Hobnobs from now on. Absolutely not. Any healthy food strategy you take on must be enjoyable. Food should be pleasurable but you need to know where the danger points are. Hedonic foods are your personal kryptonite. They are hyper palatable foods which once you pop… well you know the rest. They will be specific. You might love ice cream but you know that if you buy Ben and Jerry Cookie Dough ice cream then that tub will be gone in one sitting. Be aware of this maybe avoid picking up a tub on the way home on a Friday night telling yourself that you will just a have a couple of spoonfuls. Eat the foods you love, drink the drinks you love but be aware and factor those calories into a broader plan.

Keep calm and carry on

Many people notice an immediate difference at meal times after implementing Division of Responsibility. The stress of meal times just melts way. At first kids may not like that you are presenting them with healthier option and may stick to eating only the bits that they like. Feeding professionals say that it can take up to 20 exposures for a child to try a new food. That is a lot of unappreciated broccoli. But it works and over time it gets easier. As kids get exposed to new things they become less resistant to them. When it comes to meal times, make unusual the norm and before you know it your kids will be enjoying the healthy food that you have always wanted to eat.

Neil Welsh knows how to get what mums want. Lose weight, get your kids to eat the healthy food that you want to eat and end mealtime battles… no matter how fussy your kids are. For more info on Division of Responsibilty, Hedonic foods, healthy family friendly recipes and more then check out Neil’s website.

Cuddle Fairy

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