They’ve been taught it at school and you’ve held back ice cream until they’ve finished the palak, but that’s not going to help your children understand why it’s important to eat healthy.
Especially since their cartoon heroes eat (and sell) gigantic sundaes, towering burgers and colourful candy all the time.
But if you make nutritional information tangible and relatable, they will be able to process it and then make the healthy choice themselves.
And it’s all served better up as fun lather than an admonishing. We help you turn eating healthy into child’s play.
Put in a book
If your little one is between ages five to eight, head to the nearest bookstore. There are lot of colourful books, with pop-up pictures or poems that slip in education about eating the right amount of greens and the virtue of fibre.
Slip this book in between other bedtime stories. Better still, if you get books that have trivia, puzzles, quizzes or other games and activities revolving around nutrition, zap them up.
Make it stick
Buy a pack of colourful stickers and make-up a reward system. Write up a chart of vegetables, new fruits or whole grains and assign a sticker to each.
For every serving or variety they try, reward them with a gold or silver star. You can take it further by associating a number of stickers with a prize so that they have something to collect towards.
Put it on a plate
Involve your child’s drawing skills and together, draw out what an ideal food plate should look like. What are the things it should have and how much? Half the plate should be filled with green and other vegetables; and don’t forget the bowls of daal or chicken or fish for protein.
Then add the rotis or rice for carbohydrates and whole grains and finish of with milk protein in the form of a glass of milk or a piece of cheese. Add a splash of good sugar in the form of jaggery or fruit.
Colour it in
Appeal to the colour sense of children over the age of five and make up the Rainbow game. The leader calls out a colour and the others out all the fruits and vegetables that are that colour. You say “Red!”, they say “Beetroot! Apple!
Inside a Watermelon!” You can compare the textures, tastes and colours of the fruits. If you have particularly precocious kids, you can even compare vitamins or minerals that each fruit or vegetable has and what they are good for. This gets them interested in foods and urges them to try some more.
Fruits, vegetables and beans may be boring to your picky baby, but in groups they may become more fun. Help your child create family trees with the related types. For instance, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are cruciferous veggies.
Different types of lentils can be designed into a family tree. Let oranges, sweet limes and tangerines wear the Vitamin cap. You can actually map out a family tree, create a list or turn it into a verbal game with them.
Don’t be shy to do some homework yourself. Fruit and veggies can be more than genetically related. They can be sorted in ethnic groups as well. Compare them for shapes, sizes, and textures.
Use some props
To raise portion-savvy eaters, you can hand them colourful cups, plates, bowls and even your marked baking utensils or scales. Let them weigh their intake on their own.
Eating the right quantity will become a fun activity if measuring their food is enjoyable. For different kinds of food, you can give them different props: small disposable cups for salty snacks, bowls for veggies, etc. Then you can tell them which prop is the right quantity so they know exactly how much to eat.
Adventure with fruit
Don’t just serve the usual variety of fruits — apples, bananas and oranges. take them along when you go shopping and let them pick the exotic variety or things they have never seen or eaten before.
Have fun with the new and crazy names — kiwi or clementines. Not just shopping for these but holding them, peeling them and eating them will seem like an adventure.
They will also stay open minded to new and even ‘weird’ things. It may set them up to seek adventure, nutritionally and otherwise, later in their life.
• Involve your child’s drawing skills and together, draw out what an ideal food plate should look like.