Healthy food for thought

He­len O’Callaghan on get­ting kids to eat nu­tri­tious meals

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

WHETHER it’s a 12-year-old de­cid­ing she’s vege­tar­ian or a tod­dler re­fus­ing to eat veg, it can be chal­leng­ing to feed chil­dren nu­tri­tious meals.

“What they want to eat and what you want them to eat aren’t nec­es­sar­ily the same,” says doc­tor and TV pre­sen­ter Nina Byrnes, who finds par­ents gen­er­ally worry ei­ther about chil­dren ‘not eat­ing’ or be­ing ‘fussy eaters’.

“When they’re ‘not eat­ing’, it usu­ally means not eat­ing healthy foods — they’re self-se­lect­ing treats,” says mum-ofthree Nina.

Her five-year-old, Ed, would eat burg­ers all the time if al­lowed, so she works with him — spot­ting healthy foods he likes and find­ing in­no­va­tive, palat­able ways of in­tro­duc­ing ones he’s not so keen on. “We dis­cov­ered Ed likes grilled salmon. We ini­tially called it pink chicken. Now he knows it’s fish. He loves spaghetti Bolog­nese — we get veg­eta­bles in that way. He eats raw car­rots but not cooked.”

Daugh­ter Alex, 15, loves salad. “When she was small, we re­alised she didn’t like veg­eta­bles. At five or six, we found she’d eat raw spinach, raw broc­coli – all raw greens – with salad dress­ing. She’s still fussy about cooked veg­eta­bles but her favourite healthy food is salad.”

Un­der-5s are of­ten fussy eaters, says Nina. “It’s nat­u­ral when they start. Par­ents should get chil­dren to try foods, up to 12 times, be­fore de­cid­ing they don’t like that food.” She’s con­cerned par­ents can give into chil­dren’s de­sire for snack foods just to get some­thing into them. “Kids are smart. If they know they’ll get the ce­real they like rather than the din­ner they don’t, they’ll hold out for the ce­real.”

Nina’s 13-year-old, Luc, eats pretty much any­thing and has al­ways been up for tast­ing foods. “He par­tic­u­larly loves mac­a­roni cheese. He re­ally likes cook­ing omelettes.”

Feed­ing kids well means a bal­anced diet, but when con­ve­nience foods are pop­u­lar, chil­dren of­ten lack iron and fi­bre, says Nina. Lev­els of vi­ta­min D can also be low.

Am­bas­sador for the Con­nacht Gold brand, Nina says healthy fats like those found in whole milk are cru­cial for cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment in in­fants/ tod­dlers. “Con­nacht Gold MÓR Milk con­tains some main build­ing blocks for nu­tri­tion, com­bin­ing ex­cel­lent nat­u­ral source of fat, protein and car­bo­hy­drate with added iron, zinc, Vi­ta­mins A, D3, E, C and chicory root fi­bre”.

Specif­i­cally for­mu­lated for one to 12-year-olds, 1litre Con­nacht Gold MÓR Milk costs €1.65.

Pic­ture: iStock

THE WHITE STUFF: Drink­ing milk is an im­por­tant part of a child’s healthy diet.

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