Mealtimes can be the cause of a lot of stress, especially in houses with picky eaters and busy parents. Add in after school activities and mealtime becomes a rushed, whatever you can find in the fridge, kind of meal. This can make it really difficult when you have a child who struggles with trying new foods. Involving your child in the preparation of meal making, including the grocery shopping, can really help your child develop a love for food and could potentially bring out their adventurous side. This is especially true if you are dealing with a picky eater, so we have some tips to make meal time fun for everyone!
Plan meals together
Involving them in the meal planning process can be as simple as asking for their input and allowing them the opportunity to plan dinner a few nights per week. Once you have your meal plan ready, a fun way to engage them would be to have them help you make a grocery list. Set them up with an activity to cut out and glue pictures from a food magazine to create their own list. Discuss healthy foods; what they are and how good they are for their growth while encouraging them to add plenty of healthy food choices to their list.
Make grocery shopping with your child fun!
Going to the grocery store can be a very exciting and educational outing for children. Bring their grocery list to the store with them and help them find some of the foods as you walk down the aisles. They may not be able to buy all of the foods that are on their list, which is a limit you can talk about before your arrival. Keep the discussion of healthy foods going once you arrive at the store and get them to predict what they think the food will taste like: Will it be sour? Sweet? Crunchy? When you get home, they can taste that food and tell you if their hypothesis was correct.
Including your child in the grocery shopping can also create excitement about eating those foods once you are home while also giving them some control over the foods that are being served from day to day.
Meal prep involvement
Children are a lot more likely to try the foods if they had a hand in choosing and creating meals with them. Involving them in the meal preparation as much as possible will spark curiosity in your child while creating a sense of pride that they helped to make something. They may even be more willing to take a few bites if they can see what ingredients went into the meal and what flavours were added!
Being busy mothers ourselves we can certainly understand the after work, meal prepping chaos. It may not always be feasible to involve your child in making every meal but one or two meals per weeks can be enough to make a difference for them.
Some ideas to add healthy choices to their meals
- Add coconut oil to increase their intake of healthy fats
- Try adding spinach and calling it a Hulk or Leprechaun smoothie
- Avocados are another healthy fat with little taste when blended with fruit
- Smoothie soup – pour smoothie into a bowl and top with fresh or frozen bite sized fruits, roasted oats etc, and use a spoon to slurp it up!
- Pureeing beets and adding them to your tomato sauce can add many more vitamins and minerals to your sauce. The best part is that your children will likely not even notice that they are there!
- Add a spinach puree, butternut squash puree or finely chopped carrots to your sauce
- Be adventurous with your sauce and try different pasta meals with it like lasagna, chicken parmigiana, cannelloni with Ricotta cheese etc.
Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds and Pumpkin Seeds
- These seeds are a great source of protein and can be added to smoothies, baking, salads or just about anything you can stick them into!
- Chia and flax seeds can also be used as an egg replacer in baking.
- Try adding mashed banana to your pancake mix
- Top with fresh, frozen or warm, cooked fruits
- You can also top your pancakes with nut butter, sun butter and honey
It doesn’t always have to be a grand recipe that takes hours to create. You can make simple, but fun and healthy foods with just a few modifications. Children’s cookbooks and the Internet are a great place to look for new and out of the box ideas. Once you have tried some new recipes or have a few favorites under your belt, keep track of which meals were a hit to make your next meal planning session a little easier!
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