How to help your children develop a positive relationship with food

Encouraging your child to develop a positive relationship with food may help them to thrive both mentally and physically. If you’re looking for some advice on how to do this, Hayley Baddiley from the pottery retailer Denby is here to share her top tips for encouraging your little ones to make the most of their mealtimes.

If you’re struggling to encourage your children to lead a balanced diet, you’re not alone. A poll carried out by Boots Kids Vitamins found that two thirds of parents don’t know how to feed their child a healthy diet (Independent). This is evidenced by another recent study, which found that one in five children consume 78% of their calories from ultra-processed foods (JAMA).

Aside from the obvious damage that a poor diet can do to a child’s physical health, it could also be bad news for their emotional wellbeing too. Poor diets have been linked to numerous mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety (Mental Health Foundation). And if your child is a particularly fussy eater, this could be a sign that their emotional cup is full (The Guardian).

While it may feel overwhelming to persuade a child to eat healthy food when all they want is cake, ice cream, or pizza, it doesn’t have to be an impossible task! To help kids balance their diet and improve their relationship with food, give some of the following tips a go.

Hide your veg in delicious dishes

If you have a child who grimaces at the thought of anything green and leafy, don’t worry as there are plenty of other parents in the same boat! While you may not be able to encourage them to eat a lot of veg in its original form, you’ll likely be able to get away with sneaking it into other recipes.

For example, most kids are unlikely to turn down a pizza. So why not use that to your advantage and make your own hidden veg tomato-based pizza sauce? There are so many things you can add, such as carrots, celery, onions, and aubergine. Once the sauce is blended, your little ones shouldn’t notice the hidden veg at all! You can also use this sauce in a number of other dishes, including spaghetti, cottage pie, or lasagne.

And if you want a nutritious drink for your child that’s packed full of their five a day, whip up a delicious fruit smoothie and sneak some veg in there too. Add mild tasting veggies that your kids won’t notice to tasty smoothies, such as cucumber or spinach.

Get kids involved in food prep

To help your child develop a healthy relationship with food, it’s a good idea to keep them involved in the entire food prep process.

If you have some outdoor space, use this as an opportunity to teach your child about where your food comes from by growing your own fruit or veg. This way they’ll get to see the entire journey from seed to plate. You can even give them their own patch to maintain, which will give them a taste of responsibility as well.

You can also ask them to help you around the kitchen when it comes to prepping the food too. They should always stay away from hot or sharp objects when unattended, but can give chopping or stirring a go under watchful supervision. Plus, there are plenty of other safe kitchen jobs they can help you with, such as measuring, mixing, and even meal planning.

As well as helping your kids to develop a positive relationship with food and learn more about the cooking process, you’ll get an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. So, this tip is a win-win!

Keep your little ones entertained

If your child is barely touching their food and seems desperate to get down from the table, it may not be the meal that’s the problem

they could simply be bored. To counteract this, try to make mealtimes as fun as possible and keep your little one entertained until they’ve eaten enough of their plate.

Try encouraging them to tell you all about their day. As well as keeping them engaged, this is also a great way to give them an opportunity to open up about how they’re feeling. You could also try playing a fun word game to keep them entertained, such as 20 questions.

Have fun with your presentation

Present your food in style to encourage your little ones to finish everything on their plate. Although this may sound like a frivolous tip, research has found that the way you present your food can have a significant impact of how children enjoy their meal (Journal of Sensory Studies).

One thing that many children dislike is different foods touching each other. If this is something that you’ve noticed in your child, try to separate the different foods as much as possible to give them more control over how they eat their meal.

Make the presentation of their meal even more special by giving them their own high-quality tableware set to serve it on. Not only will their own set make it easier to serve them the right portion size as the plate will be smaller, but it will make them feel more mature and independent as well.

Helping your child establish a positive relationship with food could aid them in both their mental and physical development. Using a selection of the above tips will guide your little one towards enjoying a healthy and balanced diet.

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