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Top tips for family mealtimes

Feeding the whole family doesn’t have to have you pulling your hair out. Here James gives his top tips to help get even the fussiest eaters onboard.

Respect your child’s appetite — or lack of one

If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack on them, and try not to get into the habit of bribing a child to clear their plate. What we’re looking for is for kids to enjoy mealtimes, not find them a time packed with anxiety about being forced to eat different things they don’t care for.

Try adding instead of taking away

We live in a world where unfortunately, sweets and snacks are abundant – even if you impose a blanket ban, what happens when they go for a sleepover or what are they being fed at school or birthday parties. Instead of trying to totally remove things from their diet, try adding things – an extra portion of veg (or a different kind of veg) here or piece of fruit there.

Look for whole foods

My two girls are absolute juice monsters – if we let them, they’d go through a large carton of fresh orange juice in one go. We’d obviously rather have them drink OJ than, say, Coke, but juices contain liquid calories (which tend to lead to weight gain) and have high levels of sugar (albeit natural) which can reinforce the need for sweet tasting things. By drinking juice, kids miss out on other aspects of fruit – such as fibre – that are essential to their health, so prioritise whole fruits over juice and whole foods over processed ones.

Focus on colour and texture

Jason always says the first bite is with your eyes, so try and make foods as visually appealing to kids as possible by including as many colours as you can (except beige!). That way, not only will it appeal visually but you’ll get a great range of phytonutrients in them too.

Make it fun

Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favourite dip or sauce. Try using cookie cutters to cut food into interesting shapes. Occasionally offer a breakfast food for dinner to mix things up.

Blend and hide

A stick blender can be a blessing for getting more vegetables in fussy eaters. Take our BB Tomato Fondue for instance – it’s packed with good nutrition thanks to the celery, tomatoes, carrots and onions in it. When it’s blended, to a kid it just looks like tomato sauce.

Include the kids in choices

Instead of being prescriptive and just giving your kids what you want to eat, involve them in the process. Get them to help you plan a week of dinners on a Sunday. Spend some time brainstorming with them. They are much more likely to eat healthy choices if they are part of the decision making process.

Don’t offer dessert as a reward

Holding back on sweet as the reward for eating dinner sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might increase your child’s desire for sweets. Select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yoghurt or other healthy choices.

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