Five Ways To Encourage Children To Eat 5 A Day
It is pretty much impossible for us to go from one day to the next without being bombarded with healthy eating campaigns whether from supermarkets, the government or a marketing campaign promoting the latest ‘super food’.
Navigating all of this, sometimes contradictory, information can be but as parents we all want to ensure that we are doing the right thing by our children when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
Rather than getting bogged down in the plethora of advice being aimed your family’s way, we believe first and foremost that it’s important to trust your gut instinct and rely on a bit of common sense when it comes to healthy eating. We all know that pizza every night isn’t a good idea but once in a while does no harm.
One piece of advice that has stood the test of time is the well known ‘5 a day’ mantra. Easy to remember and a sure way to maximise your child’s health, energy levels and immune system, here are our top five fun ideas for getting your children to eat the fruit and vegetables that they so often avoid.
Try something unusual
There are so many different weird and wonderful kinds of fruit and vegetables that come in different shapes and colours. You’re bound to find something to interest curious kiddies in your local supermarket. Let them choose what they like the look of and take them for a tasting session. Blueberries are a big favourite but how about trying kiwi or star fruit or passion fruit? Rainbow carrots, radishes and asparagus can also be a hit. Encourage them to try each thing they have chosen and then talk about how they compare. Which ones are hard or soft? Are they juicy? Which is their favourite?
Smoothies and juice
Most children love smoothies or fresh juice and they are a fantastic way to get them consuming one or two of their five a day. If you don’t have one already, blenders have become relatively inexpensive and they’re also handy for making lovely healthy soups. For fruit based drinks you can use yoghurt, milk or juice as the basis for your smoothie depending on how creamy you want it to be. Once you have your base, encourage your children to choose what they want to add. Bananas, berries and more exotic fruits like mangoes are particularly good. If it needs sweetening you can always add a little honey.
So where do the vegetables come in? You may be surprised but a small handful of baby spinach thrown into a smoothie will go unnoticed by most children and represents one of their five a day. It’s also a fantastic source of vitamins and iron.
Change their appearance or simply hide them!
Presenting fruit and vegetables in a different way can be enough to spark your child’s interest. Use mini shape cutters to make fun shapes out of sliced apple and pears and serve with some fruit yogurt or crème fraiche as a dip. Crushed berries such as raspberries or strawberries that have been blitzed in a blender are great poured over ice cream or Greek yoghurt. Dried fruit such as cranberries or goji berries resemble the raisins that most kids love, so they are more likely to give them a try.
When it comes to vegetables it can be a little harder to spark your little one’s interest which is why hiding them can sometimes be a good option. We all know a child can use one single carrot baton to eat an entire tub of dip so why not reverse things and make your own dip using avocados, cauliflower or butternut squash served up with some toasted soldiers? Pasta sauces, soups, Spanish omelettes and quiches are all good places to hide finely chopped vegetables that won’t get noticed.
If your little one is a bit of a Sherlock and can detect the merest whiff of a vegetable, why not take the honest approach and change its appearance to get them interested? Courgetti is a brilliant spaghetti substitute, is fun to make and you’ll be surprised how tasty it can be (you can search online for methods of preparation). Similarly cauliflower rice is easy to make (grate in a food processor then steam with a little coconut oil or butter for five minutes) and complements most meals where you would usually use rice.
Make it a habit
It’s important to try and make the ‘five-a-day’ mantra part of your family’s daily routine. For example if your morning snack is biscuits, breadsticks or cheese, why not make the afternoon snack fruit or vegetable based? Adding fresh vegetables to every evening meal using some of the above tips or fruit to the dessert you serve each evening can become the norm the more you stick at it.
Lead by example
As with so many things, when it comes to eating the old ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach is rarely successful. If you want your child to regularly eat fruit and vegetables then you need to let them see you eating it too. Keep fruit accessible in fruit bowls or in the fridge and make sure you are grabbing a banana at breakfast or reaching for a delicious veggie snack when you’re peckish and the kids will soon follow suit. Hey, adults need to get their five-a-day too!