By Eliza Henry-Jones
Preparing healthy food for your children – whether they’re just starting solids or jetting into the teenaged years – can be difficult.
Susie Burrell, one of Australia’s most well-known dieticians, knows all the tricks in the book for getting kids to engage with healthy eating habits.
Turns out, we need to start by focusing on what we’re eating, particularly when we’re around our children.
“The most powerful thing parents can do is model healthy eating behaviours themselves,” Susie says. “Next, only keep the healthy foods at home that you want your kids to eat and enjoy family meals together as often as possible.”
Anyone who spends time with toddlers will probably know one (or 50!) who just love white food – rice, bread and pasta.
Susie, an ambassador for healthy spread brand Mayver’s, notes that these sorts of foods are very easy to overeat and don’t have much nutritional value.
So what foods are important for fussy toddlers?
Susie recommends a focus on nutrient rich lean proteins such as oily fish like salmon, which is very important for omega 3 fats, lean red meat for iron and then at least two serves of brightly coloured vegetables such as peas, spinach, carrots, sweet potato or beans every day.
“Offer these foods at 1-2 meals each day to ensure optimal nutrient intake,” Susie advises.
“And then add some dairy, wholegrain carbs such as wholemeal bread and good fats like avocado and 100% Mayver’s nut spreads, where there are no allergy concerns in the family.”
It can sometimes take 7-10 introductions of a new food before a child will accept it.
Parents can help though.
“Make the foods taste and look appealing,” Susie says. “Let the kids see you eating new foods and as long as kids eat a few different vegetables and types of fruit, it doesn’t matter if they don’t eat everything you offer.
It’s important to let children make a mess with their food, particularly when they’re very young and experimenting with new tastes and textures.
Susie also recommends setting firm boundaries around food. One mistake Susie notices parents making is encouraging fussy eating.
“Giving kids too much choice and letting kids snack too much so they refuse to eat their main, nutrient rich meals,” Susie points out.
Eat the sorts of healthy, nutrient rich foods you’d love your kids to eat, sit down together for meals and enjoy the family time.
Some easy, healthy recipes that parents can make with their toddlers