By Melissa Grant
Sunshine Coast mum Lindsey Hendicott is passionate about children’s nutrition.
Lindsey had her children Levi, now 5, and Lily, 3, while studying nutrition, allowing her to put theory into practice.
As she completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Lindsey was navigating infant feeding, the introduction of solids and cooking toddler meals.
Now the qualified nutritionist is taking the valuable information she learned and using it to help other parents deal with the sometimes challenging task of feeding their little ones.
Lindsey – who grew up in the US and moved to Australia 15 years ago – says we are fortunate to have such a great variety of fresh produce readily available.
“Sometimes I think we forget just how lucky we are on the Sunshine Coast, with year round farmers markets and so many wonderful fruit and veg shops.”
Here, Lindsey shares her top tips for getting kids to become good eaters.
DEVELOPING POSITIVE FOOD RELATIONSHIPS
The goal isn’t to get kids to eat certain foods right now, but help them develop healthy relationships with food.
Sometimes simply interacting with food, with no pressure to eat it, can be a great way for them to gain exposure to something that might overwhelm them if it were just put on their plate. Simple ways we can help our little ones have positive experiences with food include:
– Let them help in the kitchen: Even when they are very young they can help by mixing and scooping/pouring ingredients. There are many benefits and they’re more likely to try foods they have helped make.
– Take them food shopping: Trips to the grocery store and farmers markets are great opportunities to explore new foods. Ask them to find something they have never seen before or pick out a new ingredient to take home.
– Start a veggie or herb garden: Keep it simple and even just grow something in a pot. When it’s time to harvest, they might just surprise you and try something new.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT CHILDREN’S NUTRITION
On social media I keep coming across children’s supplements marketed towards parents. These supplements are often unnecessary. For example, we know that Vitamin C provides plenty of benefits in supporting our immune system and it’s easy to think we should be giving it to our children. However, the recommended amount for 1-8 year olds is 35mg/day. To put this into perspective, 100g of strawberries (1/2 cup) provides 59mg of Vitamin C. Before you spend money on supplements, always have a look at food first. If you are concerned about a nutrient deficiency, discuss it with your GP who can do the appropriate testing.
CHILDREN WHO DON’T EAT VEGGIES
You shouldn’t necessarily be worried. Look at their diets over the course of a week or a month. Their appetites and foods they like to eat can change all the time. A lot of children who don’t eat many veggies, absolutely love their fruit! Fruit contains many of the same wonderful nutrients as veggies (vitamins, minerals, fibre). The opposite is true for kids who love veggies but not fruit. Our job as parents is to make sure we are offering a wide variety of nutritious foods, and if we are patient and consistent, they will learn to like them in their own time.
Kids learn best when they aren’t stressed or anxious, and one of the most basic things we can do is to ensure we are creating a relaxed, comfortable eating environment.
Try to eat together as a family as much as possible. Role modelling what we want our kids to do is the best way for them to learn about being adventurous eaters. It’s completely normal for kids to be fussy or picky eaters. It’s very common for young children to have neophobia, or fear of the new/unknown, when it comes to food. To get past this, we need to make these ‘new to them’ foods become familiar. The best way to get them to try new foods is to keep offering them. Eventually they will see these foods as safe and will hopefully feel comfortable to try them.
I always offer a ‘safe food’ at meals, something I know they will eat. That way I know they will have something and it will make the overall meal less intimidating to them.
NUTRITIOUS DINNERS KIDS WILL EAT
Every week I make a batch of simple veggie loaded sauce and use it in different meals. You can substitute in any vegetables and it’s a great way to reduce food waste by using up any sad looking veggies. Serve it with fun shaped pasta or use it on homemade pizzas, so even if they want only cheese they are still having a veggie loaded pizza.