Parents, aunts and uncles, big siblings, grandparents, babysitters, and caregivers of all kinds know that getting some kids to eat healthy foods can be a struggle.
There are plenty of approaches to addressing what can be a daily problem for those in charge of getting food into tiny bellies, but the dinner table doesn’t have to be a battlefield, and getting good habits on board early can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.
Leah Garrad-Cole is the founder of Love Child Organics, a Whistler, BC-born organic baby and children’s food company. With her products available in thousands of stores across Canada, and a mom herself, Garrad-Cole is familiar with some winning strategies to get to fresh foods–especially veggies–into growing bodies.
When it comes to getting kids to eat more veggies, Garrad-Cole counts herself in the camp of keeping it real.
“I know hiding vegetables in favourite foods has been a popular practice over the last several years, but I really believe it’s far better to let your kids know there are vegetables in those foods they love so much,” Garrad-Cole tells Daily Hive via e-mail.
“For example, spinach in a smoothie, or in their favourite banana bread. If they’re aware there’s spinach in something they like, it’s more likely they’ll try it on its own,” she adds.
Garrad-Cole is taking her insights, and recipes, to the masses via her first cookbook, called It All Begins With Food. Available from retailers on April 25, the book includes recipes that will feed the whole family, from baby purees and finger foods, through to family dinners, party food and lunchbox items.
In honour of her book release, Garrad-Cole shared five tips for getting kids excited about veggies and new foods, and is also sharing one of her favourite recipes for a banana bread packed with spinach.
Here are Leah Garrad-Cole’s five tips for getting your kids to be more adventurous with their food:
Even though it may seem wasteful, do keep giving your kids foods they say they don’t like, or foods they don’t want to try. I’ve heard of so many instances where children have surprised their parents by just tucking in one day, and loving it! It’s good to start this with babies. Getting used to a flavour is part of growing to appreciate it – you can try the same food item, cooked a little differently to see if that changes the reaction.
If your child likes a particular dip or sauce, use it on a different food to increase the appeal. For example, if the kids will eat tamari on white rice, put some on quinoa or wild rice instead. Once the new food has become accepted, you can serve it with the dip as a side or a prop.
Try to encourage your children to be involved in the “growing” process. If you have a garden, that’s great. Set aside some space for the kids to have their own vegetable patch. If space is limited, perhaps a window box or pot outside the front door could provide a mini oasis for them to see things sprout. The excitement of seeing their food grow will encourage them to eat it – but try planting something different they perhaps haven’t eaten before, as well as the tried and true carrots and beans!
Take a trip to the local farmers market. When children see fresh, locally grown produce, as opposed to supermarket stuff, they’re often surprised at the difference and interested to learn more. Size, colour, and especially taste is usually different than market produce, so letting them know this is the way fruits and vegetables SHOULD be in their organic state, is a really important lesson for their lives and their healthy futures. And definitely have them pick from the market a new vegetable they haven’t tasted before. They’ll be excited to try it if they’ve helped choose it!
Try cooking meal type foods with your children, not just sweet treats or baking. Often that’s what we’ll fall back on–but showing them from an early age how to make an omelet, salad, or chilli will give them some awesome life skills and inspire them to try healthy foods. You’ll be surprised how quickly little ones can master chopping and peeling, and once you’ve taught them safety and what not to do, you’ll appreciate not just the time you spend together, but also having an extra pair of hands to help you in the kitchen!
Makes: 1 loaf / Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: 1 hour
Recipe excerpted from It All Begins With Food by Leah Garrad-Cole. Copyright © 2017 Leah Garrad-Cole. Photography copyright © 2017 Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.