If dinnertime has become your least favorite time of the day as a parent, then you’re not alone. If your children have started to turn their nose up at healthy home cooked meals in favour of chicken nuggets and pasta, or would prefer a bowl of mashed potato over a bowl of fresh fruit, then you might understandably be at the end of your tether.

As a parent, you want the best for your children and watching them turn down your healthy food offerings can be disheartening. We all know that nutrition is hugely important, especially for growing children, but you don’t need to make mealtimes into a battle. With this in mind, here are some tips on how you can get your children to eat healthy and make good food choices.

Offer Choices

No one likes to be forced into doing something, especially children and toddlers and this is especially true at the dinner table. Even though the choice between apple slices and peanut butter or carrot sticks with hummus doesn’t seem like a huge one, it gives children the autonomy that they love and allows you to maintain some control over their nutrition. Your little one might be more interested in trying new foods or healthy dishes if they feel that the choice was their idea.

Try to get them involved in meal planning, too. Letting your children review the week’s meals with you gets them involved and allows them to have their say. Instead of risking chicken nuggets forming part of every meal, give them some guidelines as to what each meal needs to include.

Let Them Make A Mess

When it comes to younger children refusing to eat certain foods, it could be down to the fact that they aren’t used to the texture or taste. If you struggle to get your baby or toddler to eat some foods, then try to get over the fear of mealtimes becoming messy and just let them get stuck in and enjoy their food the way they like. Sure, this might create a mess but it can also get them used to different textures, smells and tastes.

If you are overly worried about the mess, then invest in some coverall bibs that reduce the mess made to your baby’s clothes. After mealtimes, you can then simply take the bib off and give your little one’s hands and face a quick wipe down using baby washcloths. Whilst some people believe that letting your baby take on the baby led weaning approach can cause them to become messier or fussier eaters as they get older, it allows them the freedom to explore and enjoy food as they want.

Give Smart Snack Choices

Children love snacks and, as a parent, you’re probably used to giving numerous different snacks to your kids during the day. This is absolutely fine, but if you want to give your little one a healthier diet, try to provide smart snack choices. Snack portions for babies and children should be quite small and you want to avoid ruining their appetite for dinner. When your little one is hungry and agitated, it’s far too easy to just give them a bag of baby crackers, but it’s important to help them develop healthy eating habits and this includes snacks too.

Giving your child healthy snack choices that are rich in protein and fibre will help to keep them fuller for longer and keeps snack time interesting. You can also introduce them to more new foods. When it comes to snack ideas, here are some you can use:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Apple slices and peanut butter
  • Carrot sticks with hummus
  • Banana
  • Unsalted popcorn