It is said that children need to eat foods from all five healthy food groups, which also includes about 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-2 cups of vegetables a day. If you’re parenting a fussy eater – we know what you’re thinking when you hear advice like that – easier said than fed! Well, here are some smart ways to include fruits and veggies into your picky eater’s daily diet.
Shakes and smoothies
To get your child used to smoothies or shakes, keep it really simple at first. Just blend their favorite fruit with some milk or yogurt. Then you can add another fruit and a veggie, some nuts and maybe some honey. Some vegetables can be easily disguised this way – like spinach in an apple-banana smoothie. Look for interesting recipes here.
When it comes to food ideas for fussy toddlers, this one has a high success rate. All you need are some popsicle moulds or even just ice cream sticks and an ice tray. You can puree naturally sweetened fruits with a bit of lime for some acidity and reduce the icy texture. Juices of fruits like oranges, mosambi, kiwi, watermelon, mango, grape, or apple work great. You can also try a combination of puree and juice. To add texture and make it visually appealing, add slices or tiny bits of fruits as well. Freeze them overnight or for about 6 hours.
Children love to dip stuff. Maybe because of the sensory experience or it makes them feel independent – whatever the reason, let’s use it to our advantage to create some healthy food for a picky eater. You can make a simple one with cream cheese, blended strawberry, fresh cream and brown sugar, or try any of these interesting dip recipes.
If your little one is old enough to have custard, then just add chopped (or blended) fruits and nuts. Fruits that are great for custard are banana, apple, grapes, pomegranate, papaya and mango. Avoid citrus fruits and melons.
Try this the next time you make dosa. First sauté some vegetables like onion, capsicum and carrot in butter or ghee and add some rock salt and coriander leaves. After roasting the dosa (while it’s still on the pan), add the vegetables and grate some cheese on top. Fold the dosa or leave it open when you serve it.
Stick & Dip!
There’s that word again – dip. Only this time, it’s accompanied by vegetables! Serve sticks of carrot, cucumber or even celery with some interesting dips like homemade mayonnaise, guacamole, hummus or even flavored butter.
An easy way to get healthy food into your child is through soups. They are especially great foods for picky toddlers. Single veggies soups like spinach soup or broccoli soup are easy and nutritious. Combinations like apple and carrot soup work great as well.
A few extra tips…
We’re in this together
Take the children along when you shop for fruits and vegetables. Tell them how you check and pick the right produce. This helps them connect with what they are eating. Also, let them into the kitchen when you’re cooking and allow them to participate in safe tasks, like shelling peas, picking the curry leaves from the stem, etc.
In plain sight
Keep fresh fruits on hand and on display. Have a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter or dining table. Include some standard fruits like bananas and apples and also a few seasonal fruits.
Set an example
It’s no secret that children love to imitate. Let them see you eating (and enjoying) a fruit now and then.
It’s all about the presentation
Serve the food on colorful plates or arrange the food to look like animals or their favorite cartoon characters.
Some foods (like cauliflower or spinach) can be easily hidden into others. So if your child likes scrambled eggs (for example), just grate some steamed cauliflower into it. If there are certain dishes that are favorites in the house – pasta, sandwiches, or noodles, increase the number of vegetables that go into it. Remember that herbs are rich in antioxidants too – so add basil, oregano, or thyme to simple dishes to make them healthier.
Thinking up healthy foods for picky eaters can seem like a daunting task, but remember – if children adopt healthy eating habits at a young age, it will have a positive influence on their dietary habits later in life. It is important for children to have a balanced diet so along with vegetables and fruit, they need some grain foods, dairy, and protein.