Eat a Rainbow of ‘Anytime Food’ Everyday!
Published on: November 18, 2018
Here are some quick tips and recipes to help encourage your children to eat wholesome and nutritious food.
By Sarah Tamburrini
Parents all over the world today are facing the same challenge: how to get their children to eat wholesome and nutritious food. They know what they want their children to be eating, but in a world where the fast-food industry is going from strength to strength, avoiding processed, sugary, and trans-fat laden food is incredibly difficult.
The bottom line is that children are eating more processed food now than ever before.
And the sad news is, it’s only getting more difficult.
The food that children eat today and what’s going into our food is very different from that of previous generations. So much so that there’s a wealth of research that reveals the astonishing ways in which food is impacting our children’s health and well-being today. From the effects of modern food on soaring childhood obesity rates to the links between malnutrition, attention deficit disorders and autism spectrum disorder, and the list goes on.
The bottom line is that children are eating more processed food now than ever before. Processed food is readily available, highly addictive and affecting our children’s health negatively. So, with all this in mind, the big question is: how do we help our children eat wholesome and nutritious food?
TIP 1: Differentiate between ‘sometimes food’ and ‘anytime food’
Banning a food completely is likely to make it more appealing to your child. Instead, try defining what constitutes ‘sometimes food’ in your family and what constitutes ‘anytime food.’
White sugar, cakes, cookies, potato chips, white food (e.g. bread), vegetable oil, soy, fresh fruit juice (high in natural sugar, which is still sugar, so stick to one small 200ml glass a day if you must), spreads (e.g. jam, nutella), honey/maple syrup, chocolate (30g per serving max.), candy, soda.
Fruit (a few pieces of fresh fruit a day max.), dairy (e.g. a small tub of yoghurt, preferably plain and unsweetened, or a small piece of cheese), fruit smoothies (two pieces of fruit max, which would be your fruit intake for the day), vegetables, eggs, whole grains, water (can be lightly carbonated), avocados.
- Talk to your child about when they will typically eat ‘anytime food’ and set boundaries for when your child can eat ‘sometimes food.’ For example, parties + play dates + weekend dessert = ‘sometimes food.’ Talk together about how many servings they can have and why they are allowed this treat (note: indulgence is okay).
- A great way to get more ‘anytime food’ into your child is to make it a family game. For example, encourage your child to eat a rainbow of ‘anytime food’, even if it’s just a taste/lick or a bite. Print out a rainbow and put a sticker on the corresponding color as they explore the food. If completing the rainbow in a day is hard, try completing it over a few days. The aim is to eat a rainbow of anytime food every day though!
- Wherever possible, prepare your child’s ‘sometimes food’ yourself. When you make their food, you can control the nature, quality and quantity of the ingredients.
TIP 2: Have your child be around food
- Have your child go shopping with you and find ingredients to put in the shopping cart.
- Depending on your child’s age and development, encourage him or her to pour, stir, roll dough and mix. Children can press cookie cutters into dough to make cookies.
- Children can help find ingredients in the pantry and learn how to measure and weigh them.
- Younger children can help pick herbs, and wash and mash vegetables. Older children can learn how to peel, chop and grate vegetables and how to turn on the oven (with supervision).
The big question is: how do we help our children eat wholesome and nutritious food?
- Let your child help you turn on appliances. Children love toys that give them an immediate reward, not to mention pressing buttons and flicking switches! Let them turn on the food processor, blender, etc.
- Invite your child to comment on the food that you taste together by asking your child positive, direct questions, such as ‘How juicy are those tomatoes?’ and ‘Isn’t that mashed potato so nice and fluffy?’
- Try this experiment: Before putting a packaged food in your shopping basket, turn it over and look at the ingredients. Do you see any numbers, anything unfamiliar, or ingredients you might need to run past a scientist? If so, it might be best to leave it on the shelf.
TIP 3: Eat together as a family
The habit of sharing a meal as a family is quickly disappearing owing to people’s increasingly busy lives. Eating together is an opportunity for you to be a positive role model for healthy eating.
- Show your child how delicious the food is by talking about it, making lots of excited facial expressions and adding lots of ‘mmm’ and ‘yum’ sounds.
- Work together when dishing up food, especially when eating new foods. You might find it helpful to ask your child direct questions and to offer choices. For example, ‘Would you like two spoonfuls or one?’ or ‘Would you like to try the beans or the carrots?’
- Give your child lots of praise for sitting at the table and for eating and/or trying new foods, even if this involves only licking, biting or touching the food. Any attempt at trying new foods is positive.
- Eat the food you expect your child to eat or don’t expect them to eat it either!
Crunchy Munchy Muesli
Make a big batch in advance and store in an airtight container.
- 1 cup whole grain oats
- 1 cup chopped, raw mixed nuts
- 1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder (if you can’t find this, just omit)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)
- 6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 2-3 tablespoons sweetener
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.
In a small bowl, stir the coconut oil and the sweetener until combined. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing well.
Pour the mix into an oven tray lined with baking paper.
Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden, stirring halfway.
Allow to cool. Serve with yoghurt, berries and a splash of milk (nut milk is great, too). Serves four.
My favorite breakfast hands down!
- 1 egg (or try a ‘vegan egg’: 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 2 tablespoons water)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted, plus extra for cooking
- ½ cup coconut milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon sweetener
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
Place all the wet ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined. If using a ‘vegan egg’, combine the flaxseed and the water in a small bowl.
Set aside for 5 minutes, then add the rest of the wet ingredients and combine.
Place the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix until combined. Slowly whisk in the wet ingredients.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add some coconut oil to the pan.
Carefully place a ¼ cup of mixture into the frying pan. Cook until bubbles appear, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Continue until all the mixture is finished.
Makes approximately six pancakes.
Possibly my favorite recipe. I love pressing these into a tin, keeping it super thick, like a slice, or as featured here, rolling them into balls (great for children’s fine motor skills). Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
- ½ cup hazelnuts, roasted
- 2 tablespoons chocolate nut butter
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons sweetener
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until roughly chopped.
Add the chocolate nut butter, sesame seeds and the sweetener of your choice. Blend until combined. Add the coconut oil and blend again.
Scoop out a tablespoon of mixture and gently shape it into a ball. Store the balls in the fridge for one hour.
Makes six balls.
Cover photo by pasja1000 via Pixabay; recipe photos courtesy of the author.
About the Author
Sarah is an Australian-trained occupational therapist and health coach, commencing her career 10 years ago across various pediatric hospitals. Sarah has spent the last three years in Southeast Asia. Previously she worked in Singapore in private practice and consulting with international schools. Currently, Sarah works at NIST International School. To connect with Sarah, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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