Reader’s Question Answered: How do i make my kids eat healthier?
I’ve possibly already touched on this frustration of mine. I get messages and emails everyday from people asking me to try and create kid-friendly dishes/recipes, or even approached or read blogs about my restaurants, where our clients complain that there are no kiddie meals in the menu.
When i do see a kiddie meal in a restaurant, i die a little inside. I’m not talking about smaller poritions, that’s fine, we don’t want to waste food, i’m talking about the content of the kiddie meal menu, most probably consisting of: fried chicken, spaghetti Bolognese, pork schnitzel, chicken wings, burgers, fries and ice cream. Is this truly what you want your kids to eat? Or is this really the food that you feed your children at home?
I will then encounter moms who will tell me that their kids are the ones who ask for this, let’s be real, junk. I see this happen, but kids only ask for what they know or what they are curious about. I know TVs and the internet are probably hammering at your children’s brains telling them to crave fast food (personally i don’t think children should have access to the internet or gadgets before the age of 8), but ultimately you are the one who is responsible for your child’s palette. You are the one buying the food and feeding the little ones.
I obviously don’t have kids, so please read all of this with a grain of salt, because of all of this is definitely easier said than done, but i have helped friends develop their kid’s palette and have them be curious and want to experiment with food. Obviously, it goes without saying that kids will not do what you are incapable of doing, so if you want your child to eat healthy and try everything, you need to follow suit as well.
The reason i am talking about this, is because “our children are our future”, i know, cliché, but coming from the Philippines, where most adults are not even widely exposed to our own food culture, imagine if our children are brought up with a strong understanding of what Filipino food is, and develop an appreciation for dishes other than: tapap, tocino, adobo and the likes. On the other hand, i want to champion this cause, because i know what being fat and obese does to self esteem and i wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. I’ve always been a fan of attacking the problem at the source.
Case and point, most French families i know with kids, when i ask them what food they like, they will say things like: beets, foie gras, “crudités”, carrots, tenderloin, etc. So if the French can do it, so can the rest of the world. (France’s young population has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world)
Here are some of my tips to broaden food horizons for your offspring:
- Plan all the meals and stick to a schedule. Make sure that you have something planned for all meals and snacks. That way it’s harder to stray.
- Make sure every meal is balanced. You need some carbs (carbs can also be vegetables), proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables.
- Do not keep junk food accessible every day. They are good to keep around as a treat from time to time, but make sure they are out of reach.
- Eat the same thing your kids are eating and vice versa. Say no to kiddie meals.
- Every meal try to introduce different ingredients and flavour profiles (sour, spicy, etc) and see what works. Serve two types of vegetables for example and have them choose the one they prefer.
- Make sure you stick to your guns. Lay down the rules and stick to them.
- Be a role model.
- When you have presented the food, leave it at that, don’t force them to eat anything.
- Dinners should become fun and not a chore.
- Keep the food fresh and simple.
- Try as much as possible to make things from scratch. If you have the space, grow some of your own vegetables so kids get to help in the process.
- Have kid friendly tools in the kitchen so they can help you cook.
- Make eating an adventure. Bring your kids to food festivals, markets, super markets, etc, and tell them to ask the sellers/growers questions.
- Explain the purpose of each ingredient.
- Have a couple of meals that you know for sure your kids will like and that are also very nutritious. That way you always have something for emergency purposes and for last minute preparations.
- Reinvent vegetables. Turn broccoli into beef patties, turn cauliflower to look like mashed potatoes, stuff your pork with shaved Brussels sprouts, add greek yogurt to your soups instead of heavy cream, make soups out of a combination of vegetables, etc, you get it.
- To make sure your kids don’t feel left out when they talk to their friends or see other kinds of food outside of the household, always make sure to integrate treats into their eating plan. They are kids after all. When i was younger i would always look forward to Kinder Egg/Joy (like the one pictured above) because it just makes sense to pair toys with food. I was also a huge fan of nutella, hot chocolate and the likes. I only got really fat when i was like 13 and then lost weight again when i was 16, only to get at my fattest at 21. But i don’t blame this on my parents, because everything i was eating, i understood and i knew that becoming fat was my choice. A pretty terrible one at that…