16 MAY, 2013

How to teach your children to eat fruit, vegetables, fish and legumes

Are you at a loss when your child refuses to eat fruits? Or when he does not even want vegetables on his plates? Or when the smell and sight of fish alone causes her to get up from the table? Or when you’ve prepared lentils, peas or spinach rice and he asks, «what else is there to eat?» If you are facing such problems with your child’s diet, you may be wondering what you can do to replenish the essential vitamins found in these foods; Should you or should you not pressure your child to eat fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, and if so, how?

Statistically speaking, the food groups children are less fond of are: vegetables, fruit, legumes and fish. Naturally, you are aware that the aforemention are vital foods that supply children with essential nutrients and vitamins and must be incorporated in their weekly menu. Let’s see how you can make that happen:

  • Do not pressure your child to eat. It is likely that he or she will react and may refuse to eat lentils or peas for a long time. Nonetheless, try, even if he or she does not eat legumes and vegetables, to cook lentils, spinach rice, fish and olive oil based recipes at home. There should always be salad on the table and parents and older siblings shoul deat fruit so that the child may have examples of good nutrition.
  • Children often mimic what they see from adults and it is very possible that they may try eating a food they previously refused to try. As difficult as it may be, do not give them easy, alternative solutions. When you have prepared a meal with fish, legumes, olive oil and your child refuses to eat them, do not suggest a special meal just for him or her. Make a point of telling him or her that today’s meal is spinach rice, green beans, lentils etc and that it is a healthy and nutritional and that the entire family is eating it.
  • Do not reward, at least not always, your child’s good food choices, which he or she may have made under pressure, with a sweet or favorite dessert. It is important that your children are conscious of the fact that we eat legumes, vegetables, fruit and fish because they taste good, they are healthy and full of essential vitamins, with valuable ingredients necessary to keep our bodies strong.

When your child does not eat fruit

Try and create pleasant images on the plate, because the presentation of the fruit plays an important role in your child’s psychology.

You can:

  • Prepare colorful fruit salads, camouflaged with some honey and cinnamon and even a homemade pastry cream that you prepared.
  • Make homemade desserts with fruit (such as, tarts with strawberries, apples, bananas, grapes and apricots)
  • Make homemade compote (place apples or apricots in the oven for a short period of time) and add honey and cinnamon to the mix
  • Add fruit preserves to yoghurt

Perhaps the best solution is to:

  • Prepare fruit juices with the fruits of your choice – oranges, apples, blood oranges, apricots, pears etc. It is preferable that you do not only prepare freshly squeezed juice but that you mix whole fruits in a blender so that they still have their fibers; Then add milk or yoghurt and you have drink of champions!

When your child does not eat vegetables

Avoid dry salads that simply accompany your meal and you can:

  • Use light yogurt, vinaigrette, olive oil and mustard dressings in order to camouflage the veggies.
  • Add more color to your salads and perhaps even some grated or crumbled cheese.
  • Prepare homemade vegetable pies that also have cheese as an ingredient, or homemade pizza with vegetable toppings – onions, peppers, tomatos etc.
  • For younger children create shapes out of the vegetables, something they would really like – hearts, stars, smiley faces.

Last, try to always have salad at the dinner table that will be consumed by the entire family, helping the child follow your example.

When your child does not eat fish

Fish is irreplaceable as it gives your child the necessary fats for good cerebral development and function. Exhaust all of your options in order for your child to consume fish one to two times a week. Even if it is frozen, fish maintains its good fat and nutrients and does not lack nutrients compared to fresh fish. You can add a milk- based or mustard-based sauce or some mayonnaise to make the fish more appetizing. Fish fillet, because it looks less like fish, such as bream, is probably the best choice of fish for your child. Seafood, such as octopus, calamari and shrimp, can also be added to a risotto so that they are not as evident. If your child is still having difficulties eating fish and thus, is not getting the essential nutrients fish provides, try to add to his or her daily diet food rich in Omega3, such as walnuts. Keep in mind, however, that such foods will still never replace fish 100%.

When your child does not eat legumes

If your child eats salads, you can add some lentils or beans in the salad and if he or she enjoys it, you can make a point of mentioning that there are legumes in the salad. If he or she likes rice, you can prepare lentil-rice or chickpea-rice dishes, starting with more rice than legumes and gradually increasing the analogies so that there are more legumes. In the beginning, you can also add some feta cheese, that is a flavor children usually like.

Generally, in order for a child to learn to eat legumes, vegetables, fruit and fish, parents need to put in a great deal of effort and patience, as well as, be playful and imaginative with recipes. Reference recipe books, ask more experienced cooks or mothers with older children. The most important thing you can do though is lead by example by frequently consuming fruit, vegetables, fish and legumes yourself and, as difficult as it may be, be a little bit more strict.

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