As a dietitian, I know a fair bit about food and healthy eating, but it was not until I had children that I had to learn on my feet about how to make food and healthy eating FUN for little people and for us as a family unit. It was a whole new world… cue Aladdin theme song.
Healthy eating is not just about eating healthy foods but creating healthy eating experiences that kids can relax into over time.
Here are my favourite ways to make healthy eating fun and easy!
Get the kids involved
While it may significantly lengthen the time it takes to make a meal, allowing your kids to help in the kitchen, in an age appropriate way, can open the door to healthy eating. Cutting, peeling, grating, washing, stirring, mixing, transferring and serving are all different experiences of food some children will absolutely be more inclined to try something they have helped to create… and hopefully have a bit of fun doing so. Let go of any expectations around time, mess, and perfection here, as well as the expectation that they will actually eat it. Not only are you facilitating fun, but so much learning and skill development happens here, setting your kids up to be independent in the kitchen so that one day, you will have dinner cooked FOR you!
Set up a buffet
Young kids love a good pair of tongs! Serve up dinner as a buffet where everyone can pick and choose what they put on their plate. I did this just the other day and out of nowhere my 6 year old serves himself some of the kale salad I made and gobbled it up! He’s not usually a leafy greens kind of kid. They see you serving yourself and might choose to put in on their plate too, and then even it. I love this style of eating as it really gives your children a sense of control over what they eat – and we all want that really.
Also read: Top Nutrition Tips From Our Dietitian Lisa
Think outside the box
Mashed pumpkin in pasta sauce, baby spinach in fruit smoothies, carrot in muffins or quiche, avocado on toast with sprinkles, serving dessert WITH dinner, make your own ice blocks, black bean brownies
Make sit down meals about more than eating
So often we can get caught up in the rush of home from school/work, make dinner, eat dinner, shower, get everyone to bed! But in doing that, we miss out on the opportunity to connect with our kids, enjoy food together and normalise food being about more than what’s on the plate. Chat about the day, ask questions, leave the phones away from the table, take turns saying something you’re each grateful for and if you have little kids, don’t shy away from singing silly made up songs about the peas or bananas or pork chops on your plates!
Try new foods together!
A new vegetable, a new fruit, a new flavour of yoghurt or something exotic when eating out. Trying new things can be overwhelming for kids big and small, so it can be helpful to see us trying new things and to know that it’s okay to not like it.
Our Beany Pizza Scrolls are the perfect recipe to make healthy eating fun! This is one of my favourite both-kids-can-definitely-help recipes…It’s a bonus that it’s also a ‘both-kids-will definitely-eat recipe!
Beany Pizza Scrolls
Makes 10 scrolls / 85 calories per scroll
- 1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry (Vegetable Oil) (170g), partially thawed
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (40g)
- 2 Tablespoons Hummus (40g)
- 1/2 Can Canned Cannelloni Beans (112g), rinsed and drained
- 20g Baby Spinach
- 30g Reduced Fat Cheddar, grated
- 4g Basil Leaves, shredded
- Pre-heat oven to 180C.
- Spread tomato paste and hummus over puff pastry sheet.
- Spread over cannellini beans and squash down gently into the pastry with the back of a fork.
- Sprinkle over baby spinach, shredded basil and cheese.
- Roll your puff pastry into a log.
- Slice the log into 10 scrolls and place onto a lined baking tray, cut-side down. They should be about 2.5cm thick.
- Pop into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.