Is your family guilty of repetitive eating? How to get out of a food rut – and why you should never hide vegetables in your fussy eater’s favourite meal
If you and your family find yourselves sitting down to the same meals week in, week out, it might be that you’re in a food rut.
And according to celebrity nutritionist and best-selling food author, Mandy Sacher, while this may be boring, it also leads to your children actively disliking their favourite foods.
Here, speaking to FEMAIL, Mandy reveals how you can get your family out of a food rut, and her simple tricks to help your fussy eaters enjoy everything.
Here, speaking to FEMAIL, nutritionist Mandy Sacher (pictured) reveals how you can get your family out of a food rut, and her simple tricks to help your fussy eaters enjoy everything
According to the expert (pictured), it helps to have a base of four meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner – rotate these; never eat the same thing two days straight if it can be avoided
Tips for getting out of a food rut
* Have at least four items for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you can rotate.
* Introduce one new meal each week.
* Stretch your child’s tastebuds. So if they like cheese sandwiches, try a cheese wrap.
* Get your kids involved in the kitchen – whether that’s by cooking, prepping or grocery shopping.
* Expose your baby to as many different flavours and foods as possible.
* Never hide vegetables in their favourite foods as you will break their trust.
* Introduce disliked foods slowly.
While Mandy is perfectly aware of the fact that parents don’t have hours on end to whip up a Michelin-starred meal every night, the nutritionist did say that you need to have at least four items on the menu for each meal:
‘It helps to have a base of four meals for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner,’ she told FEMAIL. ‘Then, introduce one new food each week.’
Mandy said you should also never give your child the same breakfast, lunch or dinner two days in a row.
‘If you keep giving them Vegemite on toast for breakfast, eventually they will want it for lunch and refuse any other sandwich filling,’ she said.
‘Then, finally they’ll get sick of Vegemite toast and it’ll be ruined and they’ll never want to eat it again.’
In the same way that you need to add variety to a fussy child’s diet, so too do you need to ‘stretch’ their tastebuds when it comes to what they do and don’t like (stock image)
In the same way that you need to add variety to a fussy child’s diet, so too do you need to ‘stretch’ their tastebuds when it comes to what they do and don’t like.
‘If they are an avid chicken schnitzel lover, then give them chicken stirfry,’ she said.
‘If they want a cheese sandwich every day in their lunchbox, then try replacing the bread with a wrap. The following week, try putting melted cheese on a jacket potato.’
When they eat an old food in a new way, Mandy said it’s a good idea to praise your children and focus on the positives.
‘You’ll never have a healthy eater if you’re mean to them and force them to eat certain foods,’ she added.
Whether it’s cooking, shopping, prepping or playing, getting your kids involved in the kitchen is the key to making them like lots of foods – make homemade bliss balls (right)
Whether it’s cooking, shopping, prepping or playing, getting your kids involved in the kitchen is the key to making them like lots of foods.
‘Make them be interested in food by getting them to help out, cooking and chopping dinner foods,’ Mandy said.
‘Try doing the grocery shop with your children and expose your babies to as many vegetables as possible.
‘If they only like four vegetables as baby, by the time they turn two, you will be left with nothing.’
She also recommends switching off the TV when you’re eating and instead engaging in a game.
‘Lots of parents use laptops, TVs and consoles to distract when trying to get their kids to eat,’ Mandy said.
‘It’s far better if you get them to be inquisitive about their food and play a game centred around it.’
Tips for training your baby’s tastebuds
* Expose your baby to a wide variety of flavour, starting in utero via the amniotic fluid (foods a mother ingests).
* Include plenty of vegetables, including leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, which are often the hardest to convince little ones to eat.
* Remember to ensure your baby is exposed to different smells (olfactory exposure) due to foods being prepared in the family home.
* Do not delay finger foods, transition your baby onto nutritious finger foods from around six months old. Delaying the transition from purees to finger foods can lead to a refusal of foods which aren’t smooth and mushy.
* If your baby rejects a food such as broccoli or avocado, avoid sweetening the rejected food with fruit. Sweetening food often reinforces a baby’s affinity for sweet foods and doesn’t encourage them to enjoy different flavours. Continue to offer a food at least 16 times to a baby, every couple of days, before altering the flavour.
* For toddlers and older children, it’s imperative to ensure that they have the opportunity to be exposed to new food. It’s common to see repetitive eating – the same food on offer daily, and this doesn’t help t evolve a child’s acceptance of diverse flavours.
* Get your children involved in the kitchen from as early as age one. Encouraging your baby to play with dough or wash a carrot is beneficial. Later on, it’s beneficial to foster an enjoyment of cooking and baking delicious and healthy meals. This is one of the best ways to counteract fussy eating.
* Be a role model. Let your kids see you eating and enjoying your food. This means eating together.
* Stay away from kiddie menus, as they’re all the same and cater for the child who only wants very plain food like chicken nuggets, chips, pasta and tomato-based sauce. Get into the habit of ordering from the main menu – you can always go entree size to reduce costs.
* Widen their food repertoire slowly. You might be a foodie, but you can’t expect them to accept complex foods right away. Introduce something new each week and praise them when they take to it.
‘If you have a child who hates broccoli and think the answer is to hide it in their favourite meal of spaghetti bolognese, then quit doing this,’ Mandy said – you will break trust (stock image)
When your kids don’t like something that’s good for them, it can be tempting to go all out in hiding the food in the meals they do enjoy.
Stop right there.
‘If you have a child who hates broccoli and think the answer is to hide it in their favourite meal of spaghetti bolognese, then quit doing this,’ Mandy said.
‘You are in danger of losing their safe food when they find out what’s in it.’
Instead, the food author recommends that parents introduce the food their child doesn’t like slowly – first, by trying to see whether they can be in the same room as it, and second, by putting it on their plate and asking them to eat a small amount.
‘By all means, stuff your meals full of as many nutrients as possible if they like the foods that you’re stuffing into their meals,’ she said.
‘But don’t break the trust by trying to lie to them and feed them something they think they don’t enjoy.’