Teaching kids about good nutrition early in life helps them build positive relationships with food and encourages them to make better food choices as they grow. Start by including healthy, colourful McCain veggies in creative and delicious ways to appeal to even your pickiest eaters. When cooking with McCain’s frozen vegetables, you can rest assured that all their produce is harvested at its peak and snap-frozen within hours to maintain freshness and lock in nutrients.
Tips to help you feed even the pickiest eaters
Keep it fun
Serve colourful and bright food in a fun way. Cut out shapes or make funny faces with veggies like peas and carrots. Make up fun food names like X-Ray Vision Carrots or Dinosaur Broccoli Trees.
Kids enjoy games, and making up games with food is a fun way to serve veggies – think of games such as foodie Tic Tac Toe or Snakes and Ladders.
Funny face mini pizzas: Preheat the oven to 200°C. Take 2 pita breads, slice them open so that you have 4 mini pizza bases, and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Top each pizza with 45ml store-bought tomato pizza sauce. Cook ½ cup of McCain Broccoli Florets, ¼ cup McCain Garden Peas and 2-3 McCain Baby Carrots for 1 minute each in the microwave. Slice the baby carrots. Top each pizza with grated mozzarella. Use 8 slices of salami for the eyes and the McCain veggies to create the hair and mouths of the funny faces. Place it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
Change it up
You do not always have to serve food on a plate. Serve a variety of colourful fruits and veggies in cupcake wrappers or small containers for easy access for little fingers, or make little dippy cups in small jars for fun eating.
Dippy cups with homemade chunky tomato sauce and McCain veggies: Heat 10ml olive oil in a small saucepan and cook 1 small chopped onion and 1 chopped garlic clove in it until soft. Add 400g canned diced tomatoes and 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves. Cook for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Divide the sauce into four little jars and serve with a variety of McCain veggies like McCain Broccoli Florets and McCain Baby Carrots.
Variety is key
Include a variety of colours and textures into your child’s diet – you should encourage them to eat the rainbow! Explain why eating all the colours is healthy and encourage them to eat all the colours throughout the day. Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and many phytonutrients (nutrients naturally present in plants) that help your body stay healthy. Different vegetables and fruit can help protect the body in different ways, so choose a variety of colours every day, such as:
• Green (broccoli, spinach, peas)
• Orange (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes)
• Yellow and red (red peppers, tomatoes, corn)
• Purple (beetroot, purple cabbage)
• White (cauliflower, mushrooms)
Sharing is caring
Shared family meals from big platters can be a great solution for picky eaters. Toddlers and young children are natural grazers, and grazing platters are a relaxed and fun way for the whole family to eat. This way, kids can select and eat what and how much they want, without the added pressure of a plate filled with food. It can be a powerful tool to create a sense of independence and encourage children to try new textures.
Teach by example
Children tend to model their parents and older siblings, so while it can be tempting to feed the kids early and eat later, eating together as a family is incredibly beneficial. If they see you eating and enjoying delicious, healthy veggies, they will eat and enjoy them too!
Give it time
Children develop taste preferences until the age of 5 years – after that, it tends to become more stable. Keep introducing new textures and foods but set realistic expectations. If they really do not like something, reintroduce it a few weeks later – you might be pleasantly surprised!
Get your kids into the kitchen
Let your kids participate in the kitchen – it is a great way to encourage them to try new foods, learn life skills, and start the conversation about good food and nutrition. Involve them in every stage, from shopping to unpacking to cooking. Make them part of the weekly meal planning and let them choose their favourite meals.
Pair new foods with old favourites
First experiences count, and making them positive is helpful when you introduce new textures and flavours. Try offering veggies in different guises: roasted, steamed, sautéed, with a dip, on a pizza or in a sauce to help children get used to new flavours.
Make a delicious loaded bolognese: In a big saucepan, heat 30ml olive oil and cook 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2 chopped celery sticks and ½ cup of McCain Diced Carrots until soft. Add 1kg minced beef, season with salt, break the meat apart with a fork and cook for 5–7 minutes. Add 750ml tomato passata and cook the sauce for 15 minutes. Add 1 cup each McCain Spinach and McCain Broccoli Florets and cook for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup McCain Garden Peas and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve the bolognese with spaghetti.
Don’t give up
We tend to give up too soon when offering new foods to children. Don’t make an issue of adding a new veggie to the dinner plate. Just add it and keep adding it – encourage your child to try it, even it is a small bite. Remember it takes 21 days for us to learn a new habit but, somehow, we only offer children a new food once, and if they do not like it, we never offer it again!