Supernanny Guide to Healthy Eating

When meals are a battleground and it feels like your child is eating all the wrong foods - or not eating at all - these top tips could help

For many parents, mealtimes can feel like a battle. Sometimes it can be hard enough getting a child to eat any food - let alone the healthy stuff. Be consistent, patient and make time for meals with the family - and eventually they should grow out of this difficult phase.

  • Don’t expect it to be easy
    Getting kids to eat well takes determination, but they won’t starve if you deny them a biscuit. If your child is growing, has energy and sleeps (as much as they ever have) then they're getting enough nutrition.

  • Stick to the house rules
    Agree with your partner about what’s acceptable, so your child doesn’t receive mixed messages about eating habits.

  • Make it healthy and on time
    Give them healthy snacks and water, at set times. Kids love routine, so stick to yours. If you say dinner is in five minutes, make it five, not ten.

  • Experiment
    Vary their food so they get plenty of vitamins and minerals. And if you give them something new and they don’t like it, don’t cause a fuss, just try later.

  • Involve them
    Homemade pizzas are great for boosting their vegetable intake and they’ll love picking toppings. Fajitas are another alternative. Children love cooking and are more likely to eat things they’ve helped create.

  • No TV
    Eat at the table, with no TV or screens, and don’t have lots of people coming and going. Create a peaceful and calm atmosphere without distractions.

  • Limit portions
    Huge portions of food are overwhelming, so serve up small ones – they can always have more. A serving counts as a handful , for a child it would be a child-sized one. Your child's stomach is only the size of their fist, so it doesn't take much to fill them up.

  • Stay calm
    If you get stressed they might reject all food. As a last resort remove yourself from the room to cool off.

  • Be strict
    If they play up, unleash your ‘controlled exhibition of displeasure’. And no, it’s not the same as anger – you’re just showing them you mean business.

  • Eat together
    Eat as a family. Children learn by example and if they see you enjoying your meal they’re more likely to follow suit. If you can’t eat with them, sit with them.

  • Be consistent
    Don’t threaten something and then give in for a quiet life. Saying “five more spoonfuls” and then only insisting on one just shows kids that you’re a pushover. Always see your threats through.

  • Ban bribery
    We all do it, but if it’s over-used your child may come to expect a treat every time they eat dinner, and it can become counterproductive. So save it just for special occasions.

  • Be sneaky
    There's nothing wrong with cheating. Mash vegetables into pasta sauces, or blend fruit, yoghurt and cereal for a tasty smoothie.

  • Have fun
    Tell a story as your child eats, so they take a bite in anticipation of the next stage. Choose bright plates and make pictures out of food.

  • Dish out praise
    If they do well, praise them. If they feel confident and know that you’re pleased with them, they’ll be more likely to do it again.

  • Persevere
    You may feel like screaming, but stick at it. After a couple of weeks you’ll see a difference, and your child’s health will benefit.

Related links

  • TV Clip - Good Eating Technique: See the Good Eating technique in action on Supernanny.
  • The Truth About Salt: The average four-year-old eats three times more salt than he needs. So how much is too much? And how can you choose the right foods to keep your child healthy?
  • Coping With a Fussy Eater: Here’s one issue that has many parents tearing their hair out with frustration: how to get a child to eat anything near a balanced diet?
  • Raising a Good Eater: Supernanny’s Good Eater Technique is a useful method for getting meal times back on track.
  • Meal Deal: the facts about a balanced diet: What kids need in their diet and how to provide it.
  • The Snack Jar Technique: The Snack Jar Technique is used on Supernanny to limit a child’s consumption of unhealthy snacks. That way, they'll have a healthy appetite when a good meal is on the table...

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