Most mums worry about what their kids eat, what
they don't eat, why they don't eat and whether
they are getting a balanced diet. You are in the
very lucky minority if your child tucks into to
a healthy range of home cooked dinners without
For most of us, the challenge is to provide something
they will eat, that provides the nutrition they
need without causing a major breakdown for either
you or the kids. It is very disheartening to slave
over a hot stove to provide a delicious home cooked
meal only to have it thrown back in your face
Back to the basics on nutrition
So what are we trying to feed them?
In order to have a healthy diet, children need
the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruit
and vegetables, fat and sugar. The main difference
between the requirements of a young child and
an adult, is that they require full fat products,
whereas most of us instrinctively go for low fat
versions, for our weight and cholesterol levels.
I, like thousands of mums out there, have a copy
of Annabel Karmel's book. This book has some great
information in it and some lovely recipes, but
in my opinion, it is designed to make a slightly
sensitive first time mum feel very inadequate
in the cooking department.
Annabel has menu planners for the different age
groups from weaning to toddlers and beyond. In
each there are different home cooked
dishes for at least two out of three meals per
day. If you have the time or inclination to do
this, I take my hat off to you, just don't let
the rest of us know, as you'll make us feel inadequate.
What I have used this book for is to get the
basic information about what my children should
be eating when, to give me a few new ideas of
meals and in a couple of cases, to follow particular
recipes. As with most of my cookbooks, if there
are a few pages I refer to regularly, it's worth
There are plenty of other books out there with
meals especially designed for children. Let
me know if you find one you'd recommend.
Where do the kids eat?
My sister's children sit at the table for every
meal and when they have finished they say ' thank
you for a lovely breakfast (lunch, dinner), please
may I get down'. They have been doing this since
they were able to sit.
I wish my children did this. Unfortuately I can't
claim they do, so I'll tell you what I think in
theory, not what I do in practice.
As with anything, the sooner a child gets used
to a situation, the more likely they are to stick
with it. So, if you want your children to sit
at the dining table for every meal, start young
and expect it to take a bit of effort to get into
a routine of behaviour. Where possible, make meal
times regular and structured. If you are very
lucky, you may be able to have regular family
meals together, which will help the children learn.
Children should definitely learn to sit down
whilst eating. It is a potential choking hazard
to let them run around with food. Preschool and
Day Care will help with this discipline.
Ok, so I'll tell you what I did. I am just coming
out of a phase where my 3 1/2 wanted me to feed
her, and my 18 month old wanted to feed himself,
but usually needed close supervision. I found
myself feeding the little one first, in his highchair,
before I tackled the feeding of the 3 year old.
In fact the only way to get the 3 year old to
eat was to put the television on and let her know
that if she didn't eat, it would be going off.
We have just instated a new regime. The highchair
is being decommissioned and the children both
sit at the breakfast bar on the bar chairs (bub
with booster seat). They now eat together and
I am gradually persuading the 3 year old to feed
My child won't eat anything
I have met mums who will tell you how little
Johnny won't eat anything. Yet, little Johnny
isn't fading away. A friend came round a while
back and her three year old was a 'non-eater'.
Her mum tried to persuade her to have a sandwich
at lunchtime, and she had a go, but I have to
say, mum was right, she really didn't eat much.
What I would say though, is that when the biscuits
came out, she helped herself to at least three.
The danger is that because your child hasn't
eaten their main meal, you worry that they'll
starve and you let them fill up on biscuits later
on. Kids are pretty smart and they'll catch on
to this plan and play up to it if you give them
My 19 month old will push his main meal away
if he spies something he wants instead and I cannot
persuade him to eat it. I have just in the last
month acknowledged that he's pretty smart and
I can't let him get away with it. I have to be
careful to hide the second course until we're
done with the first and if he won't eat, he, like
the 3 year old, doesn't get dessert. Previously
I would have worried that he'd wake up starving
in the night, but I can safely say it hasn't happened
and he's definitely not fading away. In fact,
if he's hungry, he will eat what he's given.
Give them what they'll eat
I think it's important for children to be exposed
to a range of foods, and to try some new things,
but if you know there are four or five things
that are healthy and nutritious and they will
always eat them, then feed them these four or
five things. Maybe try a new thing just once a
week, or once a month, depending how brave you
are, but if possible, make it something you and
your partner are going to eat, so that if it is
rejected, you don't feel you have completely wasted
your time slaving over a hot stove.
Think about what you ate as a child and what
you eat now.
A lot of children will not eat vegetables, or
if they do, they have two or three they eat at
most. As a child you were probably the same, and
in most cases, as an adult, your tastes have broadened
and you now eat a wide range of vegetables. You
might also eat more spicey food, be happy eating
meat when you never would as a kid and be keen
to try new things given the opportunity. The chances
are, your children will be the same. Try not to
get too stressed about the lack of variety in
Disguise the veggies
It's amazing what you can get away with when
it's covered in cheese sauce or mixed up with
I always chop up a leek, fry it in a bit of olive
oil and cook it with the potatoes to then serve
mashed. I also cook them in a mix of water and
vegetable or chicken stock which makes them taste
delicious, and is a lower fat alternative to adding
milk and cheese to mash.
If possible, buy the Heart Smart stock made with
natural ingredients, as it has a much lower salt
content than regular stock. Or make your own (no,
I have found the children will eat carrot, courgette,
cauliflower and broccolli covered in cheese sauce,
whereas they wouldn't touch them on their own.
Meat and Kids
Red meat can be a bit of a challenge for children.
Some seems to relish a good steak, but others
find it chewy and not easy to swallow. If your
child is getting enough fish or chicken, they
don't need red meat.
One way to try is to make a bolognaise style
sauce for you and your partner, with loads of
veggies, and nice lean minced beef. Take some
out before you add too much seasoning and puree
it to make a sauce for pasta for the kids. Mine
will eat some red meat this way, especially if
I add extra tomato puree so the predominant flavour
I have also found that the three year old, who
is anti anything green, will eat the green bits
if she closes her eyes. Quick, there's a green
bit, close your eyes, you won't notice it!