I am always trying to think up ways to encourage Monkey to try new foods or food combinations. He likes to play it pretty safe, sticking to food he knows and is not nearly as adventurous as Missy when it comes to trying new things. I’m not sure how much of this comes down to the weaning style I used for each of them (I went down the traditional purees route for Monkey and did a more baby led weaning style for Missy (more on that in a future post)), and how much is just their personalities.
Currently Monkey’s sandwich repertoire is very limited with a strong preference for jam sandwiches! While we all love a good jam sandwich, nutritionally they are somewhat lacking and I want to encourage him to try out different filling combinations, particularly as he will be starting school in September and will need to have a packed lunch 5 days a week. With this in mind, I have introduced the do-it-yourself sandwich station for lunch once a week. Here I prepare and set out a variety of filling options and bread pre-cut into sandwich squares. Monkey can then build each sandwich square himself with whatever combination of fillings he fancies.
I have tried to include:
- A spreadable item – here I have mashed avocado but it could also be e.g. humous, cream cheese, pesto, mayonnaise etc;
- Some old favourites – here I have sliced cucumber and grated carrots which he loves; and
- A new item or something he is not yet keen on – in this case cherry tomatoes, in the future I also hope to include baby spinach leaves, slices of boiled egg and some other new flavours.
Ideally the selection would be a balanced range of food groups and include a protein item (on this particular day he’d already had protein items in his snack so I wasn’t too worried to include them in his lunch too).
So far I have found that Monkey has really enjoyed taking responsibility for making his own food choices and building his own sandwich. He seems to be more willing to try something different when he has been involved in the process. It is also a great exercise for practising his knife skills in spreading the filling and encouraging him to make healthy food choices.
I would be lying if I said that as a result of this exercise Monkey now gobbles down cherry tomatoes. The first time we did this he refused to touch the tomatoes, the second time he handled them, licked them and fed them to me, which is progress in my book, and I hope with a few more exposures he will be encouraged to try them himself. The key is not to be too pushy, it can take a number of exposures before a child happily eats a new food. Just the other day he rediscovered sweet potato chips after more than a year of turning his nose up at sweet potato. Also keep it fun – when I saw Monkey wasn’t interested in the cherry tomatoes I put little cocktail sticks in them to encourage him to pick them up and taste them which he responded to.
We’ve also started doing something similar at breakfast time as Monkey was starting to get bored of his Weetabix in the mornings (I can’t really blame him, there’s not much exciting about Weetabix!) Mr and I both love fresh fruit in our cereal so we laid out a mini fruit platter for Monkey to add to his cereal as he likes. He’s turned it into a game of fishing for fruit where he drops a piece of fruit in and then catches it with a big scoop of cereal. As long as the breakfast gets eaten I don’t mind if he’s fishing, digging for buried treasure or any other game we can turn it into! Just trying to mix it up and keep it fun to encourage healthy and happy eating.
Do you have any other tips and tricks to encourage your little ones to get involved in making healthy food choices? Leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you.