Can’t get the kids to eat a nutritious meal? Apart from being super strict and enforcing rules around food and meal times, getting kids to eat certain foods can be difficult. We need to explain to them about the food being fuel for our bodies and healthy food is the best fuel for them and to help them grow. Quite often kids will head to sweet foods such as fruit or snacks so we need to offer other foods. A high sugar diet can lead to deficiencies and deficiencies can lead to cravings, a vicious cycle. For those that don’t seem to eat enough or never hungry it can be a sign of iron or zinc deficiency.
Avoid packaged snack foods as much as possible as they generally contain low nutrients and high sugar and/or salt. A lot of kids don’t eat much lunch at school as they are ‘too busy’ at lunchtime playing or chatting, and this leads to a big feeding frenzy after school. If this is your house then perhaps move dinner earlier. Too often the large snacking after school leads to kids being ‘not hungry’ at dinner time. How frustrating is this when you have put all that effort into a healthy meal.
Have meals from the night before ready to eat after school and give a snack at dinner time. If kids have a lot of after school activities then often something more filling is better early than eating late when home when they are too tired. Little ones are often tired by dinner time if they have been at school or daycare and may be best to eat early and have a smoothie at dinner time. Often they will fill up on milk and then not want to eat dinner as they are full. This can then disrupt their sleep as they wake hungry in the night.
Below are some options that can be made in bulk and frozen for heating when needed.
A great filling option after school is meatballs that have pureed vegetables and/or canned beans added. This will make them more nutritious with hidden veg and the beans are higher in protein and filling, as well as cost effective.
Sausage rolls can also hide lots of veggies for nutrition, chia seeds for fibre and healthy fats & beans for added protein and filler.
Mini pasta bakes – blend a pile of veggies and add to the tomato mix for a pasta sauce, add to cooked pasta whether it is gluten free, spelt, high protein or white – then put into smaller ramekins or bowls to heat individually, a sprinkle of cheese if you want and a great after school snack that’s filling.
Small homemade chicken nuggets, schnitzels or Japanese karage chicken
Taco mince with grated or pureed veggies to make nachos, burrito or tacos.
Frittatas with added veggies that they do eat. If peas and corn is all you can get in add them to everything. Then you can blend other veggies that they can’t see. If your kids are not a fan of eggs then you can add extra flour, spelt, gluten free or almond meal are best options, so it is more like a slice than a quiche/omelets.
Pancakes can be sweet or savoury with added pureed pumpkin, apple, banana or even added protein powder.
Smoothies can be great to add some healthy berries, banana, cacao even a multi vitamin powder if needing some extra support.
Muffins can be sweet or savoury but use sugar substitutes so they are not ladened with white sugar, use apple or banana puree to add sweetness, coconut sugar or honey.
Soups are a great way to hide veggies but they usually need to be pureed. Add miso, bone broth or collagen for gut health, mushroom powders for immune support, veggie powders all to improve nutrients.
If kids love meat but not so much the chunky veggies then puree the veggies before adding to the slow cooker, some of the nutrients will still be there in the gravy and meat. Then you can add the ones they do eat to the plate on serving.
Get kids used to eating healthy by being a good role model and eating them yourself, using positive wording around eating healthy and getting them to try something small every night. Add one lettuce leaf to a burger, grated carrot to tacos or one broccoli tree to the chicken. If they pick their own recipes from magazines or recipe books, and even helping cook on the weekends this may improve eating habits.
At the end of the day there may be some foods that kids really do not like but unless they try it they will never really know. Sometimes it’s a specific flavor or even a texture they will never like, but taste buds do change. They may not like tomatoes but love tomato based pasta, hate avocado but love guacamole so sometimes we have to roll with it. It is important for kids and adults to eat a varied diet full of coloured fruits and vegetables so implement small changes where you can to build up the variety.
In health & happiness,