Healthy eating from the start
Want a tot addicted to broccoli instead of cheese puffs? Read on to find out how one mom got this right. 

My child is that one at school you love to hate. She’s the one on the playground with carrot sticks in her lunchbox and an unquenchable hankering for fruit. She eats raw broccoli by the handful and regularly snacks on green peppers. As blissful as this sounds it’s important to remember that the journey towards healthy eating has not been an easy one though.

Start healthy be healthy

At around seven months, I began to introduce finger food to my daughter. She’d spend a good amount of time pushing these around her bowl, smearing them into her hair and feeding chair and, ofcourse, flinging them at me. The important element at this stage though, was to offer her a wide range of foods to experiment with.

An interesting platter of nutritious toys can be made up of blocks of cheese, pita breads and carrot sticks. We’ve never stopped this finger food experience. Because she’s such a fan of raw vegetables, having a finger food supper is a wonderful opportunity for me to introduce new foods, or reintroduce foods that she's lost interest in. 

Read: Simple steps to starting solids

Eating healthily is fun

Making dinner a fun experience has always been a priority to me. Whether it's eating dessert first and dinner afterwards or concocting interesting ways to serve food, making mealtimes fun meant it was less effort for me. Perhaps one of our favourite dinner meals was the "butternut mouse".

Using an array of cucumber slices, rosa tomatoes, raisins and mashed butternut and arranging them appropriately, we created a little butternut mouse. It's a cute and healthy way to make eating vegetables fun.

There are an abundance of ideas available online for making food fun – from transforming simple sandwiches into puzzle pieces or turning an orange into sail boat. You’ll definitely be inspired.

Tots want to make decisions for themselves

From an early age, I always gave my daughter the power to choose dinner. I’d present to her two options, both as healthy as I could make them. Because she was invested in the meal before it was eaten, she was enthusiastic about eating it. This isn’t always possible but if I let her choose at least one part of the dinner-time meal, she’ll generally happily eat everything on her plate.

Bringing my daughter into the kitchen while I prepare meals is a brilliant way to get her invested in a meal. I’ve been able to involve her in age-appropriate tasks that get dinner done and let her “help mom in the kitchen”. From grating cheese, arranging food on a plate or plopping potatoes into water for me, doing this gives her a sense of pride in her meals, leaving her happy to eat her entire portion.

Read: 10 freezer-friendly family meals

When things don't go as smoothly as planned 

There have been times though, where it seemed impossible to get her to eat fruits and vegetables. For those times, I have my friendly and fabulous juicer. Using a juicer to mix up some fabulous, nutritious juices is another fun way to get your child eating healthily from the start.

By “juicing up” a variety of good fruit and vegetables, you can create wonderful, healthy juices that make healthy eating a breeze, not a battlefield.

I also learnt, early on, to pick my battles. Where my daughter screwed up her face at asparagus, she shovelled peas into her mouth as fast as she could. When she loudly protests against olives, I calm myself knowing she’s munched on two carrots that morning.

Is it really a choice?

Whilst food preferences are very often defined by both environmental conditions and parental preferences, I do believe that there is an element of nature in our food choices. The Journal of Nutrition has also stated that “genetic factors that determine the number and type of taste receptors inthe mouth could inuence such sensitivity” to tastes. Nature does indeed play a part and nurture seems to steer the journey towards food preferences.

Now our journey towards healthy eating has slowed down. Her eating habits don’t keep me up at night. She has her favourite foods and a large proportion of them are very healthy. I could ask for nothing more as, and I hope she’ll continue her obsession with broccoli throughout her life.

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