As mums, we want our kids to eat a rainbow of vegetables.
The health benefits of eating lots of veggies makes a long list. The problem is the age old – how do you get your kids to eat their greens (or colours in actual case). You know the drill – you spend your time lovingly preparing a meal, your kids take one look at it and turn up their nose. You, in turn, feel your stress rising.
Why won’t your child eat the food you serve? There are so many valid (to your child) reasons. Some of these might include:
- A child’s imagination is going at a hundred miles an hour and dinner isn’t exciting in their eyes.
- They might not like the vegetables mixed together in the salad.
- They might have seen the capsicum touching the cucumber.
- The carrots are cooked, and they prefer them raw.
- They don’t know what’s in the food.
- They don’t trust what’s in the food.
- They have never tried one or more of the ingredients in the food (or they have only tried them once or twice). This is called neophobia – a fear of the unknown, actually a bit of a protective mechanism from the dark ages.
- Last time they tried it, they had a negative experience with the food
-It’s boring, you have served the same salad for 3-4 days this week.
So what to do when you feel like giving up and just making them some toast? Some things to try:
Kids often like anything on a stick – it really is that simple. You can use a toothpick, a kebab stick or an icy pole stick. These work well for most things. My kids love things on a stick – in fact, it’s a sure way of getting them helping in the kitchen (and out of trouble).
Salad? Serve the same salad but on a stick! My son’s eyes lit up the first time I suggested making one and he insisted on being the salad stick maker. Designing his own salad on a stick! And whilst preparing, you might just find your kids taking a little nibble! Like licking the beaters, only more colourful
Meat? Do you have a child who is not really into meat? What if you STICK it!? Serve chicken lolly pops for dinner. Just put a toothpick into the chicken or meatballs after you cook them. I find this one doesn’t even take more time to prepare.
A new ingredient? Stick it works really well for anything – for example, if you want to use a fresh herb or a new food that your kids haven’t tried or aren’t used to. My kids loved the basil on a tomato and bocconcini combination when presented on a toothpick.
Water? Do you find it hard to keep your kids hydrated in the summertime? Make water more fun by threading some fruit on a thin wooden stick and popping one in their glass (flavour, decoration and a great stirrer).
Another way to make food more exciting and interactive is to serve it with a dip. The flavour hit is fantastic and it just seems to appeal to kids. Dips can make meat, fish, fruit and veggies more appealing.
Try popping some dip into a small shot glass (hummus or tzatziki are great) and add some colourful veggie sticks (carrots, cucumbers and capsicums are great). Or give the kids some choice as serve a dip in the middle of a platter of different veggie sticks and crackers.
Want to try and make some dips of your own. Home-made dips can be simple and save you money too. Here are some simple ones to try:
Try a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce with natural yoghurt (great with tuna or salmon patties!)
Guacamole makes a great side for pita chips
Cream cheese with garlic
Cream cheese with creamed corn
Cream cheese, natural yoghurt and fresh herbs (try dill and parsley)
Natural yoghurt and lemon juice (try this with chicken!)
Tzatziki – natural yoghurt, grated cucumber, mint, garlic and lemon juice. Tzatziki is my kids’ favourite.
Blend some nuts, sundried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and a pinch of oil
We sometimes use dips to create some fun food art. We make fruit faces using yoghurt and fruit. Or robot crackers using grainy crackers with cream cheese and veggie eyes, mouth and nose (recipes and ideas on Foost website).
STICK IT! DIP IT!
Teaming anything on a stick with a dip doubles the fun. Fruit with yoghurt as a dip, salad on a stick with tzatziki or hummus, meat on a stick with tomato sauce or what about fish on a stick with a little mayonnaise?
I hope you have been inspired to try some new Dip It, Stick It ideas in the kitchen with your kids. But remember, it is really important is to stay positive. Learning to like foods for kids (and adults) takes times. Your child might not try your new invention today, but remember to try to keep meal times relaxed and fun. One day they will grow into healthy eaters.