Does your child struggle to finish what is on their plate at breakfast, lunch or dinner time? Do they pick at their food, push it around on the plate or just refuse to eat certain foods? Kids being picky eaters is more common than you think. So don’t worry, we’re here to help with a few tips and tricks that you can implement to help your child develop healthy eating habits – and get all the nutrients their growing bodies need.
Each meal should ideally always incorporate foods from all the food groups: protein, starch or grains,
fruit and vegetables and dairy.
A look throughout the day
Beginning the day with a well-balanced meal means that your child starts the day with the right amount of energy for school and playtime. Try to include healthy starches like oatmeal, whole grain toast or fortified cereal. Add to that some milk, yogurt, peanut butter or cheese so that your child gets the right amount of protein too.
Nutritious lunch ideas
A little bit of fruit and some carrot sticks for a snack is an easy way to keep any meal healthy. Make sandwiches out of wholegrain bread or add brown rice to a cooked dish. Include some cheese on the sandwich. Remember, meat, fish, chicken, eggs and beans are all great sources of protein that will keep your child energised throughout the day until the afternoon.
Delicious dinners for the whole family
Dinner is family time in many homes. Prepare a nutritious meal that everyone can enjoy together. Remember that your child will follow your lead when it comes to healthy eating habits. Research has shown that children’s risk of being overweight and obese is reduced when at least one meal a day is
consumed as a family at the dinner table. Try to avoid distractions while eating dinner, like eating in front of the TV at all costs.
Bulking up meals for a picky eater:
- Add shredded chicken, minced or deboned fish (can be pilchards), or other meat to gravy with mash, pap or rice. This at least ensures that the little bit that the child has, is nutrient dense and rich in high quality protein.
- You could also combine mashed potatoes and mashed beans together. Half a cup of this will provide the much needed muscle building protein, and the carbohydrates for energy.
- Pasta is another energy dense food. Try to find ways of making the child enjoy it.
- Consider adding peanut butter or avocado to food and sweeten it with fresh fruit such as mango or other soft in season fruits.
- To ensure your child gets all the required vitamins and minerals play with veggie combinations - these can be added to any starch, given cooked or even raw if preferred.
In between snacking:
- Encourage snacking as much as possible, in between meals, however, don’t allow snacking at least 45-30 min before a meal, as this can severely impact their appetite and all your hard work might be for nothing.
- Something to be careful of are meal replacers - these are drinks that are essentially a complete meal. Replacing their meals with drinks increases satiety and they may not eat the food you are offering.
- As much as pumping them up with sweets and chocolates would achieve the desired weight gain, it will have a negative effect on their health in the long run. So, it’s always better to give them healthier meals and snacks.
NB: You could consider a complement like NESTLÉ® NIDO® 3+ for 3-5 year olds that can be given in-between or after meals. If your child likes colour, you could do the following:
- Make 2 servings of NESTLÉ® NIDO® 3+ for 3-5 year olds. You can make that into ice cubes for summer. This will keep things interesting and encourage your child to try it.
- You can also add the NESTLÉ® NIDO® 3+ for 3-5 year olds to smoothies or yoghurt, to enrich the snack.
- This will keep your child interested in the food you are encouraging them to eat.
Monitoring your child's weight, height and milestones regularly (every other month or so), will give you a sense of their progress and highlight the need for potential interventions quite early. Having a height chart behind a door is easy and can become an heirloom when they grow up. Check in with your child’s doctor on what the recommended milestones should be for a 3-5 year old.
NESTLÉ® NIDO® 3+ is not a breastmilk substitute but a drink specially suited for children older than 3 years