• Children learn by example and if they see you ladling out good portions of vegetables and healthy food on your plate, they will learn to do the same.
• Avoid TV watching while eating.
• Serve meals attractively. Have a variety of food on the table at mealtime and let the child choose. Pair familiar foods with unfamiliar ones, and favoured food with unfavourable ones.
• Maintain a division of responsibility. Parents should involve children in meal planning using healthy eating principles. Encourage children to help in cooking and shopping for nutritious food. Ask them to find healthy recipes combining lots of colours, such as red (tomatoes), green (peas), orange (carrots) and yellow (sweet corn).
• Avoid too much restriction. Do not use food as reward or punishment. “Eat your carrots if you want ice cream” will backfire over time. Children will usually end up disliking the food intensely.
• Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Make a vegetable tray at the beginning of the week and set the five-a-day challenge. Have them accessible in a ready-to-eat form. Vegetables sometimes become more acceptable if put into soups, stews, rotis, fillings, rice, noodles, pastas, corn, salads, chutneys and sauces.
• Allow them to eat with their fingers.
• Often children eat well in the company of other children. So, call friends over to share a meal.
• Avoid excess intake of milk and juice.
• All foods usually have substitutes containing the same amount of nutrition. If your children dislike vegetables, offer them plenty of fruit; if they won’t drink milk, buy yoghurt or cheese; if they dislike eggs, try soya cutlets.
• Keep mealtimes regular and, if you have hit on something your children like, serve it a few times over a few weeks.
(As told by Ishi Khosla)
All the doctors and nutritionists that Mint spoke to stressed the importance of winning over the fussy child by laying out an innovative table. Lakshmi Gopal, a preschool teacher, says she has got her children clamouring for second helpings of dosa ever since she started serving it out in the shape of a cat (a big round with two tiny rounds as ears and with two blobs of chutney strategically placed that look like eyes) What else can you do? Lost for ideas? Well, help is at hand, from the variety of cookbooks and children’s books written to tackle the problem.
Here is a starting list, available on the Internet.
I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato
By Lauren Child, $6.99 (about Rs280) on Amazon
If cartoon characters, such as Popeye, got generations of American kids to eat spinach, then Lola, the central character of this book, might just help fussy kids overcome their dislike of tomatoes, peas and carrots. The book will fuel children’s imagination and interest in food.
Fussy Eaters’ Recipe Book
By Annabel Karmel, £14.99 (about Rs1,240)
The book has more than 120 recipes covering everything from breakfasts to suppers to parties, suggesting ways of sneaking hidden vegetables into familiar foods. It also offers a healthy take on fast-food favourites, such as chicken nuggets with dips and sticky barbecue ribs. And for those children with food intolerances, there is a whole chapter of recipes covering dairy-free sauces, gluten-free pizzas and a wheat-free birthday cake.
One Bite Won’t Kill You
By Ann Hodgman and Roz Chast, $15 (about Rs600)
Mother of two fussy eaters, Ann Hodgman comes up with comforting foods that will satisfy children’s finicky palates and save tired cooks by relying on ready-made ingredients, such as canned soup. It is packed with recipes, anecdotes about teaching kids to broaden their culinary horizons and appealing illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.
Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up
By Mollie Katzen and Ann L. Henderson, $17 (about Rs685)
This book is aimed at children in the four-eight age group. Vegetarian foodie Mollie Katzen and educator Ann Henderson invite your child into the kitchen to help prepare meals—one way of getting them interested in food.