I will admit, I am hard pressed to think of something I detest more than a fussy eater. How can anyone be fussy with the amazing array of foods on offer in Australia today? Who does not love a Laksa? A Gozleme? Sushi and Sashimi?
We are one of the luckiest nations in the world to have such an enormous multicultural society that provides us with such diverse cuisine.
Now kids are a different story…
Their little taste buds haven’t really developed yet but often it’s the texture, not the taste of food that puts them off. It took me years to figure this out. Why would my son scoff down a bowl of olives yet spit out a piece of zucchini? How could he not like baby spinach? It doesn’t taste like anything!
I remember giving him a rice paper roll and he screwed up his face, spat it out and proclaimed “I don’t like eating plastic bags!” (I promise – I have never given my kids plastic bags for dinner).
The problem was the texture. My kids ate sausages and mince with an occasional chicken breast thrown in until they were about 5 years of age. They were too lazy to chew and were yet to master the chew and swallow technique. It was a case of continuous chewing until they had a ball of steak in their mouths that they would have to spit out. Great technique if you are on a diet; not so good if you want to bump up your child’s iron intake.
It was during this difficult “fussy eating” stage that I came up with a few sneaky ways of getting them to eat decent food that wasn’t pre-chewed or made of 20% chicken and goodness knows what else.
The one thing I didn’t do was force them to eat things they ‘think’ they detested. It was a case of try it once, try it again and if you don’t like it a third time……fine.
There are many fun and inventive ways to get your kids to eat well.
Here are a few tips:
- Try roasting vegetables like zucchini, carrot, asparagus, squash, sweet potato and even cauliflower. Roasting really brings out the natural sugars in the vegetables so they taste sweeter and have a nice caramelised crunch on the outside.
- You can make really yummy meatballs and burger patties with the addition of grated vegetables. Zucchini, carrot, squash and finely chopped baby spinach mixed with mince, garlic, herbs and spices will appeal to all members of the family. Trust me, they will never know.
- Kids love to eat fun things. Long strands of spaghetti are always a winner and they especially love anything shaped like meatballs. Make your own pizzas and let the kids assemble their own burgers – it’s a great way to get them interested in what they are eating and we all know how good we feel when we have created a meal.
- Make funny faces out of salad items. A Large piece of round ham for the face, grated carrot for hair, cucumber for eyes etc. Be creative and get the kids involved in creating their own faces from ingredients that you have prepared. Have a competition for the child that uses the most ingredients……nothing like sibling rivalry to get them experimenting!
- Make slices and frittatas for their lunch boxes or afternoon tea using grated vegetables, cheese, bacon or chorizo sausage.
- From the time your kids can eat solid food, start introducing them to new flavours. Some they will like, some they won’t but if they are exposed to new things often they will be far more receptive to them later in life. Don’t be afraid to give them spices, chilli and herbs. What do you think children eat in India?
- Make smoothies out of frozen bananas, blueberries, mangoes etc. I always freeze fruit that is a little past it’s used by date in zip lock bags so it is ready to pop in the blender with a cup of milk or juice. They love it!
- Lastly, please stay away from processed foods. They affect your child’s learning, health and well-being.
I believe that a love of food will come naturally if you keep introducing new things. Some they will like, some they won’t, but it is a case of trial and error.
And that same child who referred to the ‘rice paper rolls as plastic bags’ now takes them for lunch on a regular basis. I rest my case…
Cheers and Happy Inventing