Children’s Nutritionist Jo Afxentiadis Sharp shares her secrets for feeding and nourishing your little ones in the simplest ways.
With almost 80% of children not eating five fruit or vegetables a day, the statistics can seem scary, but it’s never too late to change bad habits. Our expert panelist this week is Jo, a London based Nutritionist who has been through it all. You’d think due to her profession, that her own child has the perfect diet, never refuses food and will eat anything on his plate, right? Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘As a family we’ve gone through different phases, from food neophobia (fear of eating new foods), to a reluctance of eating anything green or avoiding food that’s not separated on the plate. It has often been stressful and even with all my professional experience, we definitely could have approached things differently.’
So if you have a fussy toddler or teenager, parent and nutritionist Jo has some expert advice. Be a role model. Children copy our behaviour, the good and the bad. It might not seem like it now, but they will observe and copy the way we eat and behave around food.
If your child refuses to a certain food, start by placing a very small amount of it on their plate. Everything else on the plate, should be familiar foods that they like. Part of the challenge here is to get them used to having it on the plate. Keep reassuring them that they don’t have to eat it, just leave it on the plate.
Keep offering your children the food they seem to have an aversion to. It can take up to seventeen times for a child to be exposed to the particular food before they actually try it, so persistence and patience is key.
Don’t reward with food
How often have we said, ‘if you eat all your veg, you can have ice-cream.’ Using these typically sweet foods, may result in overconsumption of sugar, while also promoting the idea of ‘good or bad foods’. Using different rewards such as ‘when you finish, we can play lego’ will encourage better food acceptance.
Ideally you want to have all three meals together as family, but this might be very tricky to achieve with work commitments and our ever changing schedules. Aim to have one meal per day together as a family and make it the time you all come together, share stories and connect.
Don’t offer alternative meals
Children are so persuasive, aren’t they? If they refuse a meal, don’t sweat it. Explain that this is the only meal currently available and when they get hungry enough to try it (or after a few attempts) they become less resistant to these meals.
Get them involved
Include them in the cooking process. Have them chop, peel, stir and turn cooking into a fun, creative activity. As a bonus, it will also get those digestive juices going and they might even start looking forward to their meal. Tell them how proud you are of their excellent cooking skills.
Cut back on snacking
If between each main meal, if children have had one to two snacks, they’re likely to not have a huge appetite when it comes to mealtime. Unless your child has a very healthy appetite, then I advise cutting back on snacks.
Make it colourful
On top of offering the rainbow, make it informative. Each colour has a superpower:
- Red foods give you a strong heart (apples)
- Orange foods help you see in the dark (carrots)
- Yellow foods help to heal cuts (mango)
- Green foods help fight of sick bugs (broccoli)
- Blue and purple foods give you a strong, clever brain (blueberries)
- White foods give you energy (cabbage)
Remember, you’re not alone. Almost every parent experiences difficulties at some point. Be patient, make it fun, get them involved and remember to lead by example.
To work with Jo or to find our more about what she does, contact her here.