I understand that eating healthy and nutritious is not something you can just preach and get results instantly. It’s a journey you take along with your family towards building healthy eating habits. It needs conscious, sensible and sound decision making from the parents to inculcate a life-long good eating habit in their kids. My husband and I as a team have taken various steps and devised numerous strategies at different stages in our kids development to make sure eating healthy is not an option but it’s mandatory. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Because we believe that you cannot force anything on to a child and expect it to work.
So, here are a few of my tried and tested strategies that have worked wonders for us;
- We always have a sit down family discussion on menu planning and over a period of time we have revised and revisited the menu many times. As my kids grow and their tastes change, we tweak the menu from time to time to make room for changes. It is very important that all the decisions are taken with everyone’s consensus, however young the family member might be. There are disputes raised, arguments posed and some compromises are arrived at but we finally make sure that it has a healthy twist. When kids are involved in the decision making, there is a better chance of success and they take the onus of sticking to the decisions made. So, give them some autonomy in deciding a few dishes and see the magic. Involving kids in meal planning is my sure shot way to get them on my side to add a healthy twist to almost any dish.
- All of us have our own likes and dislikes when it comes to food. Even as adults we have preferences in vegetables we like and don’t like, so no wonder it is difficult to make kids eat all the vegetables as per our conditions. Here is where we need to bring in some innovation in our thinking.
Here’s what I do to make sure my kids get a good dose of all the vegetables;
- I incorporate all their not-so-favourite vegetables like bottle gourd, radish, beetroot etc in parathas. Grate them and mix it in the dough and roll it out into parathas and they don’t mind one bit.
- I make cutlets with lots of grated beetroot, beans and carrot with a bit of potato for binding it all together. It’s a big hit with my kids.
- I make koftas made out of mixed vegetables and steam them in my kuzhipaniyam pan and they are quite happy to devour it.
- Gravy is an area I use to my advantage; I add all the bland vegetables my kids usually dislike like pumpkin/ashgourd, bottle gourd, snake gourd etc along with onions and tomatoes, saute them and grind it into a gravy base. A great and easy way to incorporate loads of veggies.
- I make khichidi with lots of grated vegetables which are so minute that they aren’t even visible and the vegetables don’t alter the taste much either.
- Soups can be leveraged in a big way to incorporate veggies too. Just add a dash of cream/milk to your pumpkin, corn or mixed vegetable soup and make it palatable.
Therefore, instead of getting frustrated that my kids don’t eat the various subzi’s in the traditional form we usually make, just get a bit more creative and you can get them to eat all of those veggies and more.
- I also make sure I give a twist to all the different cuisines we try at home to incorporate as many vegetables as I can.
- I make vegetable lasagna using brinjal, pumpkin, bottle gourd and corn.
- Palak is a huge hit with béchamel – white sauce pastas at my home. Instead of maida, I use whole wheat flour and instead of heavy cream, I used milk for the sauce.
- Homemade whole-wheat pizzas are always made with lots of toppings, literally drowning them with an overload of vegetables like corn, palak, capsicum, onion, tomatoes, olives etc.
- Mexican Quesedillas are a family favourite. All we do is give our own twist by making whole wheat tortillas (basically chapathi) and shred a humungous amount of cabbage,carrot, palak, capsicum, onion and tomato and any vegetable we have and add a good helping of cheese over the top, flip it on the tava to melt the cheese and voila…All the veggies disappear not gruntingly but with a huge grin on their faces.
- I make whole wheat pancakes and use country brown sugar instead of white sugar and maida.
- I also make my own burger buns, whole wheat bread and homemade jams and sauces.
- If we have a chance to attend any health workshop or session we make it a point to attend as a family so the kids hear from the experts directly and are more willing to comply and agree when it comes from an informed person. We have seen in our experience that kids are more likely to listen and agree to the view points when it comes from an expert, someone other than a parent (because they always eye parents with suspicion that we are the green monsters out to get them to eat yucky stuff in the name of health). Therefore, it’s always better to take them along rather than trying to convey the message yourself…It has a better impact this way.
- Another very important thing we do is eat as a family as much as we possibly can; we are mostly able to achieve this for breakfasts and dinners. This way when we eat fruits and vegetables, kids automatically do too. We make eating fruits in the morning a compulsory thing by sitting together and finishing a bowlful of seasonal fruits. When they see their parents and everyone else doing something, it gets done without much of a struggle. They start seeing it as a family thing which is undisputable and it becomes easy to adopt in the long run. Not following something yourself and only forcing kids to do so never works.
- We also make it mandatory to eat a big serving of raw vegetables in the form of salads as often as possible. This also is done as a family and not just for the kids or just for adults. All of us sit down to have salads as a meal together.
- Last but not the least, one thing that always works for us, is cooking together as a family. All of us including my kids are big on cooking and innovating in the kitchen and that makes it easier to discuss and plan weekday and weekend menus. Masterchef Australia is a family favourite and we have a large collection of cookbooks which shows our love for cooking.
- Speaking of Masterchef, a little twist in presentation of your dish goes a long way, at least for my kids. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, just give a fancy name to your regular fare and watch the food disappear.
I surely hope you would find my tips useful in motivating your kids to eat nutritious and healthy meals.
Finally, my one advice would be to have fun with the vegetables and not be stuck in a rut. The more fun we have cooking, the more interesting the food becomes for kids.
I would like to thank Geethica Mehra who blogs at https://thoughtsbygeethica.com for introducing me on her blog. I also take this opportunity to introduce Mahak who blogs at http://babyandbeyond.in/blog Do check out these amazing bloggers.
I am participating in the ‘Get Fit, Stay Fit’ blog party with Bon Happetee!