Healthy Eating for Children: 6 Steps to Getting It Right!

CoachMel Healthy Eating 11 Comments

Do you have difficulty getting your child to eat well at mealtimes?

If you do Lucy Thomas‘s fantastic book, “Mange Tout: Teaching Your Children to Love Fruit and Vegetables Without Tears,” may be just the ticket you’re after.

In her book Lucy teaches the principles of how to offer food to children in a way that removes the fear, stress and pressure of trying something new.

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Her aim is to put the fun and excitement back into trying new things, and help frustrated parents get back on track teaching healthy eating skills to their children.

Here is a summary of what you need to know…

1. Don’t ask a child to eat, try or taste anything

This may seem a little contradictory, but it’s all about going back to basics, discovering foods and exploring the shape, color, texture or smell of new foods.

Lucy says children don’t respond positively to statements such as “Just give it a little try.”

Instead encourage your child to explore new foods by kissing, licking, smelling or crunching them – very often this leads to tasting without any prompting, and therefore removes the initial fear.

The other thing to remember is that children love to copy, so if they see you popping fruits and veggies into your mouth and not making a bit deal of it, they may just follow suit.

2. If foods are refused don’t offer an alternative

While it’s very tempting to offer something else when meals are refused, be aware this reinforces the bad habit.

Be strong, and stick with your resolve.

Remember, children won’t starve if they miss one meal.It’s also more than likely they will clear their plate at the next meal too.

Between meals offer fresh fruits, vegetable sticks, plain crackers and water or milk, and definitely don’t offer cakes and biscuits, particularly if they don’t eat well at mealtimes.

Check out these healthy kids snack ideas.

3. Get your child involved

I’ve discussed this point before, but it’s really important to reiterate again.

If you want your child to be interested in trying new foods, you need to get them involved in the whole process, from planning, selecting and shopping, to preparing, eating or sampling.

Instead of rushing around the supermarket week after week, why not see it as a wonderful learning experience?

Allow your child to touch the produce, ask questions, ask for their opinions, and to choose their favorite fruits and vegetables or colors.

You could also encourage them to pick something to take home and experiment with outside of normal mealtimes if necessary.

4. Be positive about little achievements

Children respond really well to positive reactions from you.

So, for example you could say something like, “It’s lovely that you enjoyed your dinner today.”

Lucy suggests using a tape recorder in your home to record your interactions with your family…I absolutely love this idea!

Can you imagine? I cringe to think what it would sound like, but I think it would be invaluable in helping us learn what the tone of our voice actually sounds like, how many times we say “No!”, or how negative we really are.

5. Recognize your food hang-ups

Don’t forget that children imitate their parents, so if your child is fussy, it’s worth taking a look at your own attitudes to food in case you are passing on habits unbeknown to you.

In her book Lucy states that between the age of 7 to 12 months it’s important to introduce as many different flavors as possible to your child, as this is when their taste buds are at their most receptive.

So, go for variety, allow them to experiment with foods and texture, and don’t worry if they make a mess…that’s what it’s all about at this age!

Also, remember that young children often need to be offered foods over and over, so don’t be put off if they refuse the first time.

6. Put yourself in your child’s shoes

I think this is very profound, imagine the situation… You go to a friend’s house for a meal and are presented with an unidentifiable and unfamiliar dish. How do you feel?

Obviously you don’t want to offend, so you make a few carefully chosen statements such as, “That looks interesting! I don’t think I’ve tried it before!”

Obviously, your child doesn’t possess the ability to use such sophisticated language yet.

But regardless, they may feel similarly apprehensive and afraid to try a meal–albeit something you’ve cooked–as you would yourself when presented with your friend’s unusual and unfamiliar dish.

Do you see the point?

So, what’s the key?

It’s to make sure they are prepared and ready for something new before you present it to them.

What do you think of these tips? Will they be useful in helping you encourage healthy eating in your children?

What else does the book contain?

I cannot recommend Lucy’s book enough. Personally I feel it should be on every parents bookshelf! If you manage to get your hands on the book it’ll give you…

  • Tips on how to do “Mange Tout” at home
  • It includes songs, games and activities for learning about fruits and vegetables
  • It gives interesting nutrition facts for various fruits and vegetables, which will help you in teaching your child
  • It covers how to deal with problems at mealtimes
  • It includes some recipes at the end

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Comments 11

  1. Yum Yucky

    I needed this advice badly! My year-old won’t break out of the foods he’ sused to eating from when I had an unhealthy diet. I don’t eat the stuff, but I keep buying for him because I’m afraid he’ll starve. This has got to change NOW! (he won’t starve)_

    1. Melanie

      Hey Yum Yucky,
      I’m so glad this article has been helpful. I suppose the key is to take is in small steps. You’ll get there 🙂

  2. Lauri Laine

    Great tips!

    As it shows in the tips: Example is the gratest teacher. I don’t know if I have done a very good job with my child.. it’s so easy to get frustrated when your child is not eating.

    I’m sure these tips will be of a great help as soon as I get habitual with them. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ruth

    Melanie,
    I’d never heard of the book before, but there are some ideas I practice, and some I don’t.
    I often just get out fruit and sit down to eat it, and my three will come and ask for bits of it. setting a good example works!
    I buy a watermelon and make a big thing of it, telling them it’s this huge, special fruit, and that we have to wait until we get home to dig into it. That created some suspense all the way home from the supermarket!

    But I do insist that they try everything on their plate. Today we had spanish potato omelette with zucchini in it. The 5 year-old discovered the zucchini and announced he didn’t like the fritatta, having not even tasted it. The 4 year-old followed suit, of course.
    I insisted that they try it, and they did, begrudgingly, and then they ate it all up!

    So, I try to make it fun, make fruits and new dishes made with vegetables (or fish!) seem very special, but I also stick to my guns and expect them to taste everything I put in front of them, telling them they don’t know whether they like it or not until they have had one bite. If they genuinely don’t like it, they don’t have to eat much of it, and I don’t cook it for a while.

    I’ll see if I can get my hands on the book. It might give me a few more tools for my arsenal 🙂

    1. Melanie

      Ruth,
      It’s so true that the little ones tend to follow what the older child says–can be very annoying! I love your idea of creating suspense about new fruits, how wonderful!!

      I hope you can find the book, the author is British, don’t know where you’re living, but you may be able to find it online somewhere.

  4. Lucy Thomas

    Hello!
    Thank you for reviewing my book, glad to hear that some of my ideas and principles are helpful.
    The link to our website is incorrect as we have a new one whch should be found typing http://www.mangetoutkids.com into your web browser.
    I have recently had the rights to my book reverted back to me so I am looking to republish it again and adding some new content.
    Nutritious Wishes
    Lucy Thomas
    Founder and Author
    Mange Tout

    1. Melanie

      Hi Lucy,
      Thank you for stopping by and updating the link, I’ve changed it now. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the republished version of your book, if you remember, come back to Dietriffic and let us know when that happens.

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