How we get the children to accept Food for Life.
So how are we going to get our children to eat these foods that will form healthy excellent eating habits?
- Imitation - if the foods are offered to them and everyone else is eating them, children will too. We've found that even the fussiest of eaters will eat with the rest of their friends because children are basically imitators that are how they learn and develop. Which is why it's essential that they have good role models to imitate?
- Tasty choices - often children's fruit alternatives are restricted to apples and bananas and maybe grapes and oranges, because they're handy in the house and to buy. But many kids love peaches, tangerines, cherries, berries (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries), plums, pears, melons and pineapple. We've developed a menu that makes combines foods and flavours to entice any one to eat never mind only the children. The younger you start the quicker the children will develop their tastes in this direction. During the pre-school years there would be nothing wrong with butter on vegetables to make them more interesting, or for the older toddlers roasting the vegetables to increase sweetness, and because of the crunch most children will eat raw vegetables, e.g. carrot sticks all by themselves.
- Attractive presentation - when feeding the children we are competing against multi million pound advertising campaigns. Children's TV has many commercials for sweetened breakfast cereals (part of this 'nutritious breakfast' - which would be far more nutritious without the sweetened breakfast bit). Where are the commercials for the fresh vegetables? They'll have to come from us. Pre-school children often love food that is shaped like something interesting, a face or clown, a dinosaur; favourite hero etc. even pasta is now manufactured in these shapes because it sells. In this environment we need to make healthy food as appealing as the empty or harmful alternatives. (truthfully we don't really need to do this as we have found that the above 2 actions enable our children to eat extremely well.)
- When all else fails sneak it in - yoghurt bread, marmalade loaf, fruit fool containing prunes. Shaved vegetables or pieces of fruit can be added to virtually any baked goods, (savoury or sweet). (again although we do make these sneaky filled goods in Sandcastles, it's because the children love them rather than because we can't get them to eat the ingredients, but this is an option for home).
- Multivitamins - these can be a last resort to be used at home should you find your child to be a persistent fussy eater however here at Sandcastles, thankfully that is not the case. By eating whole foods (fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains etc), your children get the necessary vitamins in the healthiest way. Vitamins occur in foods in forms that are the easiest for the body to use and are accompanied by important related compounds.
This isn't to suggest that the battle is easy; we have spent a lot of time and researched what the children need, what is bad for them and devised a varied menu that makes their meals interesting, fun and essentially excellent for their health. So while this is a very current topic in today's society, unhealthy eating has been around for a long time and we are seeing the effects of it in our rising childhood disorders, such as asthma, eczema, behaviour disorders, diabetes and many other digestion related troubles. In fact the biggest percentage of hospital intakes are due to digestion related disorders. Now that we have mass advertising, children's fun meals and peer pressure, the battle is all the harder. But the battle is worthwhile, and it can be fun. The battle should never be with the children. Never push. Entice them, persuade them, and teach them. Just battle bad nutrition.
Table showing benefits of food activities