Primary school age is the perfect time for all children to learn about staying healthy, consuming a sensible and well balanced diet, learning about others and being active
A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, adequate essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and adequate calories.
Toddlers and young children can be notoriously difficult about eating what you want them to eat, when you want them to eat it but try not to worry too much! The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) says that food problems in pre-school children are common, to the extent that they are seen as a stage of normal development at that age, and that a third of under-fives practice food refusal or selective eating.
This is partly because children are experimenting with, or being asked to try, new textures and tastes, and partly because they are testing their parents’ reactions and seeing what effect their behaviour has.
The RCP reassures that the majority of children will grow out of any problems but in the meantime you can help minimise mealtime tantrums and raised stress levels with some of our tips here.
Show by example. If everyone is eating it and there is no alternative then there is more chance they will eat it. If you don’t buy the rubbish then how can they eat it.
Chill, chill and chill again. Think of the food intake over a week rather than a day and look at the intake and the variety that way. It is probably better than you think. Keep offering favourite and a bit of new food but don’t sit anxiously over them – see what happens.
Plonk small portions of the food down and then ignore and see what happens. Don’t make a fuss and don’t try to encourage or bribe.
Take a basic food that they love e.g. bread, and add new things to it bit by bit – so try bread and cheese then eggy bread, then eggs and soldiers… praise any new tries.
Just never gave in. My daughter was given her meal each day and if she kicked up a fuss about what was on her plate was told to eat what she wanted and could leave the rest there. The days of not eating never seemed to do her any harm and now she will eat almost anything.
Sharron, South Beds
I have a slightly different perspective. I am a fussy eater. All through my life I hated it when people made a fuss. I was made to eat things at school and still remember to this day a some of the incidents at nursery. I am of the strong opinion that you should never force a child to eat anything they don’t like.
Julie, West Midlands
One success I have had is with broccoli. My son wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole until I got him to pick the one he wanted at the market. Then we came home and he washed it and broke it into pieces and popped it into a saucepan. He made a lot of mess and water went everywhere, but he also had great fun and has eaten broccoli ever since.
Hiding goodness in sauces is a good one – chop things up really small – only the most dedicated take the time to pick it out and they will accidentally get some nutrition from it.
Emma, Orkney Islands
We’ve explained about vitamins and minerals and how they help your body grow and stay healthy. Emma will now eat mushrooms because she is desperate to be a big girl. And Sam will flex his muscles when he’s eaten a lot of veg!
My son doesn’t like the broccoli florets but loves the stalks. If you buy some with a long stem and peel and chop it into slices like a carrot it will steam or boil really quickly. I think the taste and texture is different.
My 4-yr old little boy loves orange juice but has never touched oranges. So one day I cunningly suggested an ‘orange smile’ (segment!) as a ‘treat’ and told him that footballers have these at half time. Hey presto! He’s now requesting ‘orange smiles’ in his lunch box!”
Try serving up raw veg. My daughter wouldn’t touch veg until I discovered she liked everything raw: green beans, carrots, cucumber. I think she likes the crunchiness. I server them up while I’m cooking our main meal.
Karen, North Glos