20 clever ideas to get your little one to eat up their greens
We all know we’re supposed to eat our five-a-day – five portions of fruit and vegetables – for a healthy diet. We explain how much your tot needs to have, and suggest some simple ways to encourage your veg-averse little one to eat their greens.
How much is five-a-day? The best rough guide to the size of a single portion is the amount your child can fit into the palm of her hand. For toddlers this is usually something like a small satsuma, three strawberries or half a small banana.
“Get your little one to draw around her hand on a piece of paper,” says Dr Rana Conway, nutritionist and author of Meals Without Tears. “When she eats one of her five-a-day she colours in a finger in the same colour as the food.”
Refer to carrot and celery sticks as magician’s wands that can turn broccoli into fairy’s trees! Get inspiration from the Charlie and Lola book, I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato.
Children are copycats so make sure they see you and your partner enjoying as many of the ‘good guys’ as possible. This also means getting rid of the bad stuff in your cupboards. If your little one sees you munching on a biscuit, she’s going to want one too, rather than that plateful of peas.
“Ever since we told Phoebe that broccoli makes her grow tall, she can’t get enough of it! She wants it with every meal and even eats the stalks. We’ve extended this to other fruit and veg now – carrots help her see in the dark, apples make her clever and so on. It really works.”
Polly Fox, 32, from London, mum to Phoebe, 3, and Wilbur, 3 months
The key is not to force them, even though watching them pushing their veg around their plate can be intensely irritating
Dr Rana Conway, nutritionist and author of Meals Without Tears
Children love little birds, so why not try them out with this veg ‘nest’? Grate up carrot and celeriac and arrange into a nest shape, then drop in grapes or cherry tomatoes as ‘eggs’.
Toddlers may reject new foods several times before they finally give them a try, and it could take you up to 10 attempts before a forkful goes in the mouth. “The key is not to force them,” says Rana, “even though watching them pushing their veg around their plate can be intensely irritating.” Patience is required here!
If your child doesn’t like basic fruit and veg, don’t be put off. She might have a taste for the exotic instead. “Don’t be afraid to serve up something more unusual, such as papaya,” says Rana.
Have popcorn instead of crisps. Put a 10p-sized drizzle of vegetable oil in a saucepan, add a handful of popcorn kernels, put on the lid and turn on the heat. When the popping stops, your popcorn is ready, just let it cool for a few minutes before serving. It’s great entertainment and a tasty treat too, but don’t smother it in salt or sugar.
“Even if your cake recipe doesn’t mention it, you can add a good serving of grated courgette or carrot to the mixture in order to up their five-a-day intake,” says Rana. “Your cake will be lovely and moist.”
Bombard your child with different veg and you could freak her out. Introduce new varieties one at a time instead.
“The Charlie and Lola book, ‘I will never, ever eat a tomato’ is a great way to combine your child’s imagination with the bravery of trying something new. Amelia wouldn’t touch anything green on her plate, but after reading the book, she was happy to try ‘green drops from Greenland’ (otherswise known as peas!) and now she loves them!”
Sharon, 32, mum to Amelia, 4, and Kealan and Ethan, both 2
TV Supernanny Jo Frost can help your child be a happy eater
© Immediate Media Company Ltd 2012. This website is owned and published by Immediate Media Company Limited. www.immediatemedia.co.uk