Healthy food for thought
Helen O’Callaghan on getting kids to eat nutritious meals
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.
THE WHITE STUFF: Drinking milk is an important part of a child’s healthy diet.