Wherever you look at the moment, childhood health is in the news and rightly so. With obesity on the rise and the related health issues costing the NHS a fortune, it is a worry and I know that I feel the pressure to try and encourage my kids to eat a healthy diet.
My kids are such a mixed bunch when it comes to eating. My eldest son was quite fussy when he was younger but now as an adult, he eats a wider selection of food than I do. The teenager is very conscious of his weight and fitness and generally eats well but finds it very hard to say no if there is sugary food and drinks on offer. The almost teen has a limited palate and is always starving from about 9 pm but does eat a really balanced diet apart from too much orange juice. My daughter is a nightmare. Pure and simple. She loathes fruit and vegetables. She is reluctant to try anything new and can spot any attempt to conceal fruit and veg in her food straight away.
As a parent, it can be so hard to keep your kids on an even keel when it comes to eating healthily and I know that I worry endlessly about my kids and probably nag a little too much about why it is so important. I try to be sneaky, I water down fruit juices, I don’t buy sugary fizzy drinks and I do try and sneak veggies into meals wherever possible.
But how do you encourage your children to eat a healthier diet?
Getting them involved in cooking
I love cooking with the kids and I know I should find time to do more of it. The problem is that when we do cook together, it tends to be baking cakes, biscuits and things that aren’t always the healthiest. Whilst the basic skills learnt are good and baking sweet things together is a great experience, I know that I should be teaching my kids to cook healthier recipes and also meals and basic cooking skills that will be helpful for them when they head into adulthood.
With so many websites and cookery books with healthy recipe alternatives, there is plenty of inspiration. Beko has partnered up with a sports nutritionist from Barcelona FC to get kids excited about eating healthier and eating like their sporting heroes. It is a really clever idea, you choose your child’s usual meal and snack preferences and they give you a cookbook of delicious, healthy recipes and you can even print them out. You could even get your children to help prepare their new meal and snack ideas too. Find out more on the Beko website.
Eating together as a family
Each of them has their own habits and each has completely different likes and dislikes. There are only two or three meals where I can prepare the exact same meal for everyone. So this summer I am on a mission to try and improve that by introducing a few new meals that hopefully we can all eat together. We always eat together as a family at the weekends and during the school holidays. It is really tricky in the week when the kids are at school as they come in starving and like having an early meal. But we do eat together whenever we can.
Copyright: rido / 123RF Stock Photo
Setting a good example
With so many things as a parent, it does help if you can lead by example. I do try and set a good example. I’m not a huge fruit eater myself but my husband is. I do however love a fruit smoothie. I bought myself a Nutribullet two years ago on the recommendation of a friend and it was one of the best things I ever did as I have a smoothie for breakfast at least five days a week. I always use frozen fruit, either mixed summer fruits or frozen pineapple and mango. I add a banana, a few porridge oats and either plain yoghurt or coconut milk, water, a splash of honey and it is a delicious and refreshing way to start the day. The boys will drink smoothies now, not every day, but some days so that has had a positive impact on them too.
Vegetables I love. I will eat almost any vegetables and I am always looking for interesting new ways to cook or combine them and I am the same with salad. I think it does help if you always give kids access to vegetables and salad, even if they don’t always eat it and they always see us eating them, so hopefully, it will rub off as they get older.
One thing I know is that I want my children to be happy and healthy and if that means taking time to encourage them to eat healthier now and set better habits, it will be worth it in the long term. If you have any good ideas, please do let me know in the comments.
Post written in collaboration with Debbie Fletcher