Ensuring a child is eating healthily isn’t always easy. Children develop a natural preference for the foods they enjoy the most and whilst it can be worrying for a parent, it’s common for toddlers to be fussy eaters.
Eating habits generally form in the first few years of life, so helping encourage our children to eat nutritious food will help throughout their life.
In this blog, we provide hints and tips on how you can encourage your children to eat in the early years.
5 tips to help encourage healthy eating
1. Be a role model
Research shows that children begin to adopt their parents’ eating habits early in life. Children learn by watching the adults around them for behavioural cues.
Getting involved with your child’s snack and mealtimes by eating the same foods yourself, can help encourage them to join in and follow suit.
2. Make food fun
Making a fun and enjoyable environment is one of the best ways to encourage your child to try new foods and eat a balanced diet.
Studies suggest children are more likely to eat vegetables if they have silly names like X-ray Vision Carrots or Power Peas.
You can also be creative with food presentations. Try making rocket-shaped fruit kebabs, arranging food colours in a rainbow on their plate, or using cookie cutters to cut new food into simple shapes.
Unique eating utensils can make mealtimes fun too. There are plenty of exciting plates and cutlery on the market designed especially for children. Many have different colours, shapes, and themes.
Another idea? Try using a picnic set. In either Summer or Winter a picnic can be great fun for children and can be placed indoors or outdoors!
3. Involve your child
Children can start being involved in their food choices from a young age. Involvement can help children feel more invested in healthy eating and help encourage them to explore new foods.
With supervision, children can help with some basic food preparations such as one bowl banana bread.
Try allowing children to help plant, water and harvest some simple fruit and veg like cress and tomatoes. You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss where food comes from and how it grows.
4. Talking about food
Creating an open dialogue with your child about food can help shape positive eating behaviours.
Try asking your child open-ended questions about their food such as its texture and colour.
You could also experiment with games and activities such as vegetable guessing games or matching food with colours.
5. Stay positive and patient
As with any change, it is important to remain persistent. Studies have shown that some children need to encounter a new food as many as 15 times before deciding if they like it or not. Introducing a small portion of one new food at a time, alongside a well-liked food, can help make new foods less overwhelming.
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