We all know that nutrition for kids is so important. So how frustrating is it when they turn up their noses at a delicious stir-fry and demand bland pasta? When their sense of adventure seems to have deserted them?
I have always found that, if my kids have refused a particular food, vegetable or fruit, then I try a novel way of presentation the next time. Think about how you enjoy food. You use all your senses - you might smell the food cooking, then see it in front of you, you may even hear a sizzle from the plate, you touch it with your fingers or fork and then finally you taste it!
All of these senses are vital to the enjoyment of food. Consider the visual aspect of food and I think that you will agree that presentation is very important to adults and children alike.
It starts the digestion process by sending messages to your brain, and in anticipation, your salivary glands start cranking up and your stomach starts gurgling - this is your body getting ready to eat.
Also, think about the importance we place on visual effects. We dress nicely, we are fussy about the colour of our car, how objects are arranged around our home and we judge someone on their chipped nail polish. So why should it be any different for food? For those who watch TV cooking shows, you will know that the judges are presented with a dish and the first thing they note is what it looks like. Kids are no different!
Have you ever served your children yellow or red mashed potato (using turmeric or cochineal colourings – chemical colourings are mostly toxic, as I am sure you know)? Try it! Or rice, or any of their favourite dishes. They are conditioned to eat white mashed potatoes so the first thing they will do is comment on its unusual colour and may be persuaded to try it.
My successes with achieving good nutrition for kids by encouraging them to eat and try new stuff (or familiar stuff that has previously been refused) have included threading food on wooden skewer sticks, stacking vegetables high like a building or wrapping one food inside another.
Then there’s cauliflower ‘rice’ and zucchini
spaghetti…who would like to know about those?
Buying a particular food in a different cut can make a difference, as can having a special name for it. My youngest used to call french lamb cutlets ‘lamb bones’ and one of her friends called them 'meat with handles'. Another child had only ever had meat cooked well done (very!) and said he hated meat but, when I served 'pink lamb', he ate all of it and asked for more.
My all-time high point of having a food triumph was when I threaded individual green peas on a stick! Yep she ate them! Yep it took me an awfully long time to prepare. But. She. Ate. Them. Winner!
What success stories would you like to share? With photos would be awesome!
The photo, above, is of our recent "bring a shared plate to class" effort. Note the hollowed out upside-down watermelon rind - you can do the same for orange halves, rockmelon and large cucumbers. It goes without saying that the children were in charge of this artistic effort!
Happy food presenting!
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Have you developed some great strategies to encourage fussy eaters to eat a range of fruit and veggies? Do share?