Seven tips for helping kids eat healthy

Last updated 14:30 29/01/2013
MOST IMPORTANT MEAL: Start the day with a healthy choice.

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Anita Muthukaruppan offers seven ways to help your kids eat healthier.

1. Stop buying junk food.

We generally don't eat any junk food, so we don't buy any. This means no cookies, chocolate, crisps or fizzy drinks. Occasionally, we'll buy arrowroot biscuits. About once every fortnight I'll bake some cookies, muffins or cakes. This means that when my toddler is hungry between meals, she gets fruit, veggies, nuts, dried fruit, yoghurt, cheese, crackers or a glass of milk.

2. Keep offering healthy food choices.

I have persisted in offering healthy food choices during all meals and snacks. My toddler is now eating food she has disliked or refused in the past. These include cabbage, asparagus, courgettes, bok choy, fish and now boiled eggs. She still hates avocados but I offer her some every time we eat it. I always ask her to try new foods, sometimes she will refuse it immediately, but sometimes she has a lick or nibble and then refuses it and that's a good enough start for me. I just keep offering.

3. Offer treats at the end of meals or when they are not hungry.

A treat is not a meal. I never offer cookies or ice cream as a snack in between meals or in place of meals. They are always given after a meal or snack. My daughter will happily eat one arrowroot biscuit and not ask for more when she is not hungry.

4. It's all about timing

I don't necessarily follow rules about meat and two vegetables for meals. Sometimes, for morning tea, I offer my daughter steamed vegetables or protein. She is usually ravenous at morning tea and a bit more tired about lunchtime and can get fussy, so morning tea is a great time to sneak in her protein or vegetables. Work with your child's appetite, temperament and daily routine.

5. Limit desserts

Why do toddlers or children really need dessert? Why do babies need dessert for that matter? By desserts, I mean baby custards, cakes and any other sweet treats after meals. I do give my daughter ice cream sometimes after dinner, but she mostly has fruit or just natural yoghurt. And skip the juice. I only give my daughter water and milk.

6. Breakfast is key

As the most important meal of the day, I make sure my daughter has a good breakfast. My daughter loves oats for breakfast and has them every morning with a glass of milk. Sometimes she eats wheatbix with homemade untoasted muesli or cornflakes, or toast with homemade peanut butter.

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7. Dilute the sugar

Children end up eating a lot of sugar in fruity yoghurts. I mix mostly natural yoghurt with a bit of fruit yoghurt to dilute the amount of sugar in it and give it a fruity taste. It is a bit easier than making your own fruity yoghurt.

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