Got a picky eater? We can help! Here are practical ways to help your baby or toddler explore the wonderful and varied world of flavours.
Did you know that you can influence your child’s taste buds from when you are pregnant? Your baby gulps amniotic fluid in your womb, and this healthy eating journey continues during breastfeeding, too.
While these opportunities may have passed by the time you start to introduce solids to your baby, it is good to know that there are still practical ways to help the not-so-exploratory little tastebuds discover the wonderful and varied world of flavours.
The spice of life
Gone are the days of boring, bland and tasteless foods for babies and toddlers. Just like adults, little ones appreciate flavourful food. It is important that, soon after starting your solid journey, you introduce a range of flavours such as fresh herbs (for example mint, basil, thyme), mixed dried herbs, cinnamon, cumin, curry, garlic, cocoa powder and the like. Sugar-free nut butter also packs a flavour punch but always check for allergies first. Stir into a warm bowl of oats in winter or offer up on a slice of wholewheat toast as a snack.
Mealtime = fun time
Children eat with their eyes. Make mealtimes fun, interesting and appealing. Call in the help of your child’s favourite superhero or princess with colourful kiddie-friendly cups, plates, utensils, placemats and lunch boxes. Cut and arrange assorted coloured fruit and vegetables into interesting shapes and funny faces. Use cookie cutters on wholegrain sandwiches or arrange mashed sweet potato into fun shapes.
As any parent can attest, it is a daily struggle to get children to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are some of nature’s most perfect foods: highly nutritious and rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fibre, they help prevent illness and disease and promotes overall health. To encourage variety, print a picture of a rainbow and place on the fridge or in your child’s room. Encourage your child to choose a fruit or veggie each day from a different colour of the rainbow. For example, tomatoes and watermelon are red, berries and beetroot are purple, and mangoes and carrots are orange
Rewards systems like using star charts to mark off how many fruit and vegetables are eaten are also a fun game for your child. Place somewhere visible and offer your child a reward when a goal is reached, such as going to the park or an extra story at night before bed.
Get green fingers
Children love being outside and getting their hands dirty. Use this to your advantage and build a vegetable garden. If you do not have a garden, windowsills and vertical or hanging gardens are good alternatives. With your child, plant various herbs and vegetables, and, when ready to be harvested, pick the vegetable with your toddler.
Older toddlers and young children will enjoy being in the kitchen. Let your children watch you prepare family meals and talk to them about what you are cooking. Let them help you set the table, stir ingredients in plastic bowls. Older children can help chop soft vegetables like baby marrow with a butter knife.
One at a time
As much as we want to encourage a variety of flavours, it is important to introduce new foods and previously disliked foods one at a time. Children are naturally wary of anything unfamiliar.
Always offer up new food with well-liked food to help increase your child’s acceptance of the food. Remember, it can take up to 15 exposures of food before your child likes it, so keep being patient and keep trying.