For many parents, feeding the kids is easier said than done. Whether it’s because they’re fussy eaters, have allergies or intolerances, or simply get bored with the food put in front of them, coming up with something your children will happily eat can be a relentless challenge. Not to mention the pressure to make sure their diet is full of healthy foods that meet their nutritional needs.
Luckily, there are lots of resources available for parents who are struggling with what to feed their kids, including books that offer sensible solutions. Here a few that might prove useful in various situations.
FEEDING LITTLE TUMMIES
Nicola Galloway (Craig Potton Publishing, $39.99)
A trained chef with a diploma in natural nutrition, Nelson’s Nicola Galloway is the perfect person to write a guide to healthy eating. From first foods to toddler meals, her book includes a diverse selection of recipes. There’s lots of nutritional advice, as well as practical tips on how to encourage your baby or toddler to eat a variety of foods, and how to deal with bad habits. For example, if your child regularly throws their food over the side of their high chair, don’t get too upset – it’s a normal part of their development, says Nicola.
“The main thing is not to make a big deal of this or it will become a game,” she writes. “Don’t get into the habit of offering favourite foods to get her to eat or she may learn to take advantage of this to always get her preferred foods.” Nicola’s great ideas include homemade hummus – a great way to get children to eat legumes, which are high in vitamins and minerals. They also contain soluble fibre, which is gentle on young digestive systems.
Top tip: If your toddler is going through a picky stage and isn’t eating much at mealtimes, sit him with the rest of the family so he can observe and learn about eating from them, and give him finger food from the table to try.
FOOD INTOLERANCE MANAGEMENT PLAN
Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson (Penguin, $42)
Although not specifically aimed at children, this is a great book to have on hand if your kids are fructose, lactose or gluten intolerant. It’s based on the Low-FODMAP Diet, which was scientifically developed to be low in foods containing the variety of sugars that can impair digestion and create health issues.
FODMAP is an anagram that relates to the official names of sugars such as monosaccharides (fructose) and disaccharides (lactose). While primarily used to help treat people with irritable bowel syndrome, the diet can also benefit children with diagnosed intolerances. As well as general information about the types of food to avoid and a range of recipes, there are tips on topics like what to put in school lunchboxes. Think sushi or sashimi, boiled eggs, plain popcorn, corn thins, vegetable sticks with dip, frittata and fruit.
The recipes included here are suitable for the whole family, so you don’t have to cook special meals just for your child, you can all enjoy feasting on healthy meals such as lamb and sweet potato curry, pork ragout, and feta, pumpkin and chive fritters.
Top tip: Low-FODMAP snacks that children may enjoy include rice crackers with peanut butter, gluten-free crispbreads with creamed corn, and mixed nuts and seeds
LIFE LOVE FOOD KIDS
Glenda Gourley (It’s My Turn to Cook Publications, $20.25)
Getting your kids to eat well can be just as much of a battle when they’re teenagers as when they’re toddlers. Kiwi food and nutrition educator Glenda Gourley believes it’s crucial to encourage kids to make healthy food choices so they establish good habits that will last a lifetime.
A former home economics teacher and food editor, Glenda says children who have learned to cook are more likely to make good food choices. As well as launching a website with her teenage daughter Claire (itsmyturntocooktonight.com) and an accompanying cookbook, she’s written Life Love Food Kids to help parents inspire their teens. This book doesn’t include recipes, but there’s page after page of great advice about everything from shaping attitudes towards food, breaking bad habits, shopping and portion control.
Glenda’s commonsense tips include advice on treats. “Some kids get a treat for breakfast, a treat for morning tea, a treat at lunchtime, a treat after school, a treat with dinner and a treat before bedtime,” she writes. “This is not a treat any more, it’s a routine – a bad routine.”
Top tip: Children love the thrill of growing food then cooking what they’ve grown, and it can inspire some kids to eat foods they’d normally turn their noses up at. There are countless tales of kids whose vege consumption soared when they were able to follow the process from plant to plate.