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Nurturing nourishment

Top tips for parents on cultivating healthy eating habits in children

Encouraging fussy kids to eat healthy food can be a bit of a challenge for parents. Never fear though – our natural health experts are here with their top tips to make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone.

Create a relaxed mealtime environment

"With three children at home, I know just how difficult it can be to get your kids to eat a balanced diet," says Melissa Snover, the owner of personalised nutrition company Nourished ( "Children can be particularly sensitive when it comes to pressure around what they're eating, so making mealtimes a judgement-free zone, where children feel free to try foods and express their opinions, can mean they feel more confident to explore foods they may not like."

Get creative with vegetables

Hiding vegetables and blending them into dishes such as pasta sauces is a crafty way to encourage children to eat more vegetables. "Carrot and red peppers can be easily blended with a tomato-based pasta sauce without altering the flavour too much," says Caroline Mason, a registered nutritional therapist, CEO and founder of Baldo and Mason ( "It allows them to get those extra nutrients in one dish." Caroline also suggests adding green vegetables such as broccoli or spinach to a pesto sauce and serving with pasta. She says: "Again it boosts their vegetable intake and nutrients, making it a healthier dish than a classic basil-based pesto."

Make healthy food fun!

Encouraging children to get involved in cooking and preparing foods can help to make healthy eating more fun. "Children are more likely to try a food that they have helped to prepare," says Paula Hallam, registered children's dietitian at Plant Based Health Professionals ( and author of Plant Powered Little People. "Aim to give children 'jobs' when preparing food such as stirring sauces, peeling fruits, washing vegetables, chopping foods or tearing lettuce leaves." Why not take this a step further and get your child involved in helping to grow their own food? "Plant a fruit and veggie garden together or grow some herbs in pots," suggests Paula. "Courgettes, tomatoes and strawberries are some of the easiest crops to grow."

Add vegetables to everything!

ProVen Probiotics’ nutritionist, Adrienne Benjamin, ( recommends adding vegetables to everything: “chopped leeks in pies, finely chopped courgette in pasta sauces, three different colour peppers in fajita meat, grated carrot in burgers, peppers and tomatoes on pizzas, sweet potato fishcakes,” she says. Adrienne also suggests making your own ‘vegetable’ tomato sauce as a base for pizzas, pasta and other sauces. “It can be made in large batches with any and all vegetables you have available and a jar of passata and stored in the fridge or freezer,” she says.

Make healthy desserts and snacks

Adrienne Benjamin recommends stewing apples, pears, peaches and other fruit to use in crumbles, pies and as toppings and side servings. She also suggests adding berries to breakfast dishes such as homemade protein flapjacks, fruit and nut muffins or granola, porridge with added ground flaxseed and pureed/stewed fruits. Adrienne says: "Bake 'healthy' cakes and cookies – fruit crumbles, carrot cake, beetroot brownies, banana pancakes. Use fresh fruit to make ice lollies or ice cream – and add probiotics to them."

Introduce new, nutritious foods alongside familiar ones

"One of the best ways to introduce new foods is to ease them in alongside foods they're already familiar with and love," says Melissa. "You can gradually adjust the ratio of new and old food to ensure a variety of healthy choices are eaten alongside old favourites that might not be as nutritious!"

Whip up smoothies and juices

"Daily smoothies are a delicious way to up kids' fruit consumption," says Caroline, "but try taking it one step further and hiding spinach and cucumbers in there too. They can work as a perfect blend with berry or banana smoothies." Caroline suggests adding in child-friendly green powders as another way of boosting the nutrient content. Another of her top tips is to make green juices more appealing to kids' tastes by adding pineapple to a blend of green vegetables. "This will totally disguise the flavour and sweeten the taste, making it far more palatable for children," she says.

Start as you mean to go on

"Healthy eating habits are formed from a young age," says Paula. "So start offering a variety of healthy and colourful foods from the very beginning of your baby's food journey when introducing solids. Children learn by copying others, so try to eat together as a family as often as you can and role model eating a variety of healthy foods with your children."

Try 'build your own' meals

"Build your own meals such as pizzas, wraps, stuffed pittas, burritos or tacos are a great way for children to learn about a variety of foods and build their confidence around trying new foods in a low pressured way," says Paula.

Make use of colour

Presenting healthy foods in creative and fun ways can be beneficial. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of fruits and vegetables or arrange them into colourful patterns on the plate. Use brightly coloured plates, arrange food creatively, and try to make the dining experience more fun and enjoyable.

Celebrate small victories

"It can sometimes take repeated exposure for a child to warm up to a new taste or texture," says Melissa. "Be patient as your child begins to explore new foods and as their taste preferences evolve over time. Celebrating the small wins offers positive reinforcement and is going to encourage your child to try more new foods in the future."

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