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10 Top Tips to foster your Child's Relationship with Food.

Updated: Mar 29

We've all been there.....cooked a meal that we are super happy with. It's healthy, wholesome and tastes so damn good. We plate and serve it feeling really quite pleased with ourselves only to be met with, "yuck'. "I don't like the look/smell of that" or the plate being pushed away, with a grumpy child sulking at you as if you have served them the worst thing ever to be placed on a plate.

Well, its more common than we like to admit but there a few key things you can do to encourage your child towards a healthy relationship with food.

Tip 1: Encourage your children to help you in the kitchen from as early an age as possible. I used to have my little ones helping me from about the age of 1. Things like kneading dough, washing vegetables, cutting up mushrooms with a butter knife (so they couldn't cause themselves any injury but where still helping with the prep). It not only helped my children to understand what is being served on their plate but gave me a channel to discuss healthy eating habits and how different foods do different things for our bodies. It may take a bit longer but not only does it help to develop a healthy relationship with food but is also a great way to make your little one feel they play a valued part in the family.

Tip 2: Ask your children to help with the washing up. I have to warn you though, the younger your child, the more water is spread across the kitchen but most children love to play with water and whilst they are washing, it gives you an opportunity to discuss the purpose for the various tools they are cleaning (or not as can be the case sometimes : ) and again makes the whole process of cooking, eating and tidying up, a fun, family activity.

Tip 3: Always encourage your child to try new ingredients and model by example. I hate fresh tomatoes, always have and probably always will (I do occassionally try one to see if I like them, sadly I still don't) but I never let my children know that, when they were younger. I now have 2 who love tomatoes and 1 who doesn't. I also made a rule from when my kids first started eating, that they have to try everything at least once, even if it is only a teeny tiny bite, and if after trying it they still don't like it, then at least they have made an informed deduction based on their own taste buds !! This has always worked a treat and on some occasions been a great source of laughter.

Tip 4: In line with tip 3...I want to talk about spices!! Not salt but things like pepper, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon too mention but a few. When I had my first child, I, like most first time parents looked at the foods available on the market and was surprised that barely any of them had any spices but were high in sugar. Having my own spice business, I was appalled at how bland baby foods were and decided then and there that my children would be introduced to spices at the get go. I would add a tiny bit of turmeric into one dish, add cinnamon to yoghurt or a pudding I made and built up from there. Today my children have garlic, ginger and turmeric in pretty much every dish we cook and also have a healthy chilli tolerance. Baked beans with a touch of curry powder goes down a treat ; ) My children now have a good understanding of why spices are good for you and how they should be a part of their diet. To be fair, when they were babies, they had no idea I was adding spices to their food and by the time they were able to discuss food with me, they didn't know food without spices, so it was a win win as far as I was concerned,

Tip 5: If your child has a particular aversion to one food item, don't force them to eat it. I know many kids who detest eggs and it turned out later, that their bodies couldn't tolerate them. So listen to your child's dislikes and only encourage them to persevere if you feel that it is ok to do so.

Tip 6: Get your children involved in the menu planning. Ask them what they would like for dinner and talk about how you are going to put the meal together. Shopping for ingredients, washing, cleaning and prepping them, to cooking them. If it is safe to do so, allow your little one to stir the sauce in the pot or to put the ingredients in to the pot.

Tip 7: Rather than trying to 'force' your child to eat particularly types of food, use this as a platform to discuss alternatives. This will help broaden their understanding of food as a whole and make them feel like they have a say - which is one of the best ways to get them thinking about food in a healthy way.

Tip 8: This may be a bit controversial but don't 'ban' certain foods (unless there are health reasons to do so). For eg sweets, biscuits, crisps.....all the stuff that is bad for you but tastes so good. Banning children from eating certain foods makes it more enticing and may lead to secret eating or binge eating as they get older . I follow the mantra of 'everything in moderation' with my children and am happy to say they now naturally balance the good foods with the not so good ones.

Tip 9: If you can, don't let your little ones eat their pudding before their main. Pudding is a treat in my house and always comes after savoury food. This alone has encouraged my kids to eat their meals more than anything!! What's not to love about a bowl of ice cream or cake after a 'nutritious' meal!!

Tip 10: If your child is really resistant to eating anything other than beige, or no veg......I think the best advice I can pass on to you is to remain patient and persevere. It's not easy and it means sticking to your guns but they will come round and what kept me going was what someone once told me (in the health care profession) 'they had never met a child (baby/toddler) who has starved themselves!!!

You got this mama! Keep persevering and remember, its just a will pass (before the next phase comes along ; )

With love Illana x

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