Follow these eight easy tips to get your food-fussy kids trying and enjoying healthy meals in no time

ROWS are a regular part of mealtimes for families with fussy eaters ­— and parents are often left feeling stressed at having to cook multiple dishes. Children do not get the variety they need when the easiest option is to give them what you know they will eat.

When author and mum-of-two Emily Leary realised her son was having a restricted diet, she decided she was going to challenge his taste buds daily.

Lisa tried getting Alissia and Ella to eat new and healthy food by following Emily Leary’s tips
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

Emily says: “If the food doesn’t look, smell, feel or taste the way it normally does, it can be quickly rejected by children. Even a familiar food presented in an unfamiliar way can cause issues. Neophobia, or fear of the new, is a stage most youngsters go through but, if it becomes a long-term habit, their diets can become very limited.”

Her book, Get Your Kids To Eat Anything, is full of tips to get children to do that. But does it work? NATASHA HARDING asks the Cushway family, from Bearsted, Kent, to give some of the tips a go.  Writer and mum-of-two Lisa, 39, has daughters Ella, seven, and three-year-old Alissia with husband Mark, 42, a sales manager at a travel firm.

She says: “Both my daughters are fussy eaters. We’ve fallen into a routine of making and eating the same meals each week.  Both girls like pasta, but it’s about all they have in common. I make different variations of the same meal which is time-consuming and expensive.”

Lisa tries some of Emily’s tips and gives them marks out of five.

Tip 1

Change family favourites slightly to ease your kids into trying new food
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

PUT UNFAMILIAR FOODS WITH FAMILIAR: Start gently with variety at mealtimes. Introduce small elements of unfamiliar colour, flavour or texture into family favourites.
Change meals they like just enough to start experimenting with variety.

If you were to make fish fingers, chips and peas. How could you do it differently? Could you use a different type of fish, could you use sweet potato fries? Could you use lentils rather than mince if preparing spaghetti bolognese?

Lisa says: “Instead of our usual fish fingers and chips, I served smoked haddock, sweet potato fries, baked beans and broccoli. It was a bit hit and miss.

“Normally Alissia will not eat the breadcrumbs on fish fingers (I have to extract the fish), so happily ate this fish. Ella did not like the fish without the coating so it was left on her plate. The sweet potato fries went down well with Alissia, but Ella did not touch them.

“Another night, I added strips of lamb to their favourite pasta dish and they devoured the lot, so this could work.”

Recipe for success: 3

Tip 2

Lisa says she and her husband will eat most foods
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

IF YOU’RE INVESTED, YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE, TOO: Leading by example is hugely important, since youngsters acquire behaviours from the significant role models around them.

If you’re veg phobic or eat the same thing every single night, chances are your children will, too.  Take care to express positive emotions, verbally and non-verbally, around the food you are enjoying together. It will go a long way.

Lisa says: “My husband and I love food and there are very few things we will not eat.  However, I made a conscious effort to talk about our food and where it comes from, and to make positive comments about what we were eating.”

Recipe for success: 3

Tip 3

The kids enjoyed the freedom of getting messy and sticky while designing their colourful meal together
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

MAKE FOOD FUN BY DESIGNING A COLOURFUL MEAL TOGETHER: We grow up being told not to play with our food, but when what’s on our plate looks inspiring, we are more inclined to eat it.  Design a meal with five different colours in it. Think about how the ingredients go together and how you could cook or mix them.

Lisa says: “I bought mini pizza bases and toppings, which we laid out together – mushrooms, peppers, mozzarella, salami, chicken, sweetcorn.  The girls loved spreading passata on the bases and designing patterns with the toppings. They ate a few of the toppings while making it. But, when it came to eating the pizzas, they barely touched them.

“I think they were full up as they snacked so much on toppings as we were preparing them. We also tried another five-colour meal with barbecue ribs. I teamed the meat with sweet potato, carrots, broccoli and sweetcorn.

“They loved the diversity of colour and the idea of being able to pick up the ribs with their fingers. I could tell they enjoyed the freedom of getting messy and sticky – and ate more veg than usual.”

Recipe for success: 4

Tip 4

Cooking was a chance for the family to get together and bond
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

PUT THE OCCASION BACK INTO MEALTIMES: Meals are much more than just food, they’re about getting together socially.

When everyone at the table is happy and comfortable, food becomes a joy, not a chore. So what can we do to enhance that experience and create the perfect environment that is conducive to happy, healthy varied family mealtimes?

Take time to think about how you normally share your meals. Do you all eat at the same time or separately?

Lisa says: “We always eat our breakfast and dinner together so, one evening, I planned an Italian night. We made lasagne and pizzas, then sat at the table and added sides of olives, grated cheese and salad, to make a buffet meal where the children could choose to eat what they liked.

“This went down well, with them trying a little of everything. They enjoyed the event and excitement of a special Italian night. I will do this again with a different theme and encourage more animated meal times.”

Recipe for success: 5

Tip 5

Lily made sure the kids knew exactly what was going into their food
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

INVOLVE CHILDREN IN THE COOKING PROCESS: Whether it’s grating cheese, stirring ingredients, kneading bread or pouring pie fillings into their cases, children are much more likely to be accepting of the finished result if they have seen what goes into it.

If they’ve helped along the way, they will hopefully feel proud of their efforts and want to enjoy their food.  Give your child an age-appropriate job at every meal and keep things fun.
Lisa says: “The girls and I bought some purple sprouts, still on the stem, when we were at the supermarket. Once home, we washed them and cooked them together with our meal of sausages and mash.

“They both ate and enjoyed the purple sprouts, which was amazing as they wouldn’t touch the sprouts in their Christmas dinners. I also baked a lemon cake with Alissia, to take to toddler group, and she loved mixing the ingredients and being involved.”

Recipe for success: 5

Tip 6

Throw veg into every meal and stick to the ‘no plate without veg’ rule
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

INTRODUCE THE “NO PLATE WITHOUT VEG” RULE: It’s easy to fall into the trap of preparing quick, easy meals that lack nutritional value.

This rule keeps everyone on track. It’s fine to have a sandwich – but you need to have some cucumber in it, or on the side. If the kids want pizza, it’s OK, as long as they have some sweetcorn with it, for example.

Lisa says: “I cooked their favourite tortellini pasta with tomato sauce but added small broccoli stems into the sauce – they ate it all.

“I put a twist on macaroni cheese by adding cauliflower, and a sprinkling of ham. They couldn’t get enough and I could not believe how much they ate.”
Recipe for success: 5

Lily planned all the meals in advance to take the stress out of cooking
Oliver Dixon – The Sun

Tip 7

MAKE MEAL PLANNING A WEEKLY GOAL: It’s typically easier for us to make healthier, more balanced choices when we are given the time and space to do so.

Meal planning can even save you money, since you buy only what you need.  Initially, you might focus on evening meals only but, with time, you might find it easy to include breakfasts and lunches, too.

Lisa says: “I planned my weekly shop and then got it all delivered.  It made it easier to ensure that we were eating a variety of meals and I felt I had more time to prepare them.

“I knew every day what I would be cooking so the stress was less than with usual make-do dinners and multiple supermarket trips.”
Recipe for success: 4

Tip 8

Pick up Emily Leary’s new book to get your kids trying and enjoying healthy food just like Lisa did

REDUCE CHOICE THAT IS AVAILABLE TO CHILDREN: Too many options can send some youngsters into a spin.

Avoid open questions such as, “What do you want to eat?” Instead, aim for just a couple of choices both of which end up with them getting a balanced plate.

Lisa says: “I found this idea particularly helpful as I usually offer the girls options.  However, by saying ‘porridge and fruit for breakfast?’ I found there were less arguments and less work for me.

“I’ve stopped asking Alissia what she’d like to eat at lunchtime and giving her a picnic-style lunch with carrots and dip, crackers, cheese and ham, instead. I found this led to a much more harmonious and healthier lunchtime.”

Recipe for success: 5

Food for thought… or hard to swallow?

Lisa: “The tip that helped the most was to get the girls involved in the cooking process. It made such a difference to how much they ate and is something we’ll definitely continue. I also found giving them less choice made my job much easier.”

Mark: “The tips encouraged us to include more variety in the girls’ diets and stopped Lisa making separate meals for them both. The Italian night was a real success.”

Ella: “I liked trying foods in bright colours, like the purple sprouts. I also enjoyed designing my own pizza but I liked the toppings better than the base.”

Alissia: “I liked choosing my own food!”

Get Your Kids To Eat Anything by Emily Leary (Mitchell Beazley), £16.99.

Source: thesun
Follow these eight easy tips to get your food-fussy kids trying and enjoying healthy meals in no time