According to Tiffany Turner, involving children in meal preparation and even growing some of the ingredients is key to persuading them to choose healthy options.
The mother-of-three and Sesame Lane Care and Kindergarten food services co-ordinator has plenty of experience to support her view. Tiffany’s responsible for creating menus, in consultation with Nutrition Australia Queensland, modifying and testing recipes, and ordering food for 15 childcare centres.
“The key is to get children in the kitchen. Get them involved in preparing the meal,” she says. “They will be more likely to eat it.”
Tiffany came from a rural community and was raised with cattle, pigs, and growing and bottling their own vegetables. The family only travelled in to town for a few things.
“That’s just the way it was for my children. They were always involved in picking and preparing food for our meals. I think they had a different experience,” she explains.
She admits it’s harder for parents “in the city”, but they are still able to involve their children in preparing the evening meal.
“Turn that into family fun time in the kitchen. Have the kids peeling the carrots,” she says. “The more you involve children in food-making and decisions, the more they will eat.”
Tiffany says it is important to be consistent and to understand the difference between fussy and picky eaters.
Fussy eaters will be happy to eat a steak and salad today, but won’t eat it a day or two later, whereas picky eaters might have problems with the texture, smell and look of the food.
“You might have to put a particular style of meal or combination of ingredients in front of a child 20 times before they will touch it, smell it and eventually taste it,” she explains.
Parents should ensure their child’s daily diet includes the main food groups, with correct portions for their age and size.
“Half of the dinner place should be filled with salad and fruit and vegetables. Only half of the plate should have protein on it,” Tiffany says.
Sesame Lane staff eat with children, so they can model correct behaviour and eating habits.
“They talk about the flavours, colours, textures and what the food will do for their bodies,” Tiffany says.
Parents should also do this at home.
Kindergarten children are involved in making their own sandwiches and as a result often put on more salad. They grow some fruit and vegetables themselves, pick the produce and help cut it up.
“They’re eating more fruit and vegetables now than they were before we started the gardening project. I think people would be surprised by what their kids pick.”
1. Be consistent and persistent. Keep trying.
2. A child’s daily diet should include the main food groups, with correct portions for their age and size
3. Involve children in food preparation and menu planning
4. Sit at the table with your child, when they eat, and talk about the foods on their plate and how they will help their bodies
5. Grow some fruit and vegetables at home and add these to your cooking. Children are more likely to eat something they have grown themselves
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