Personally I think having a great variety in the foods we eat is one of the most important aspects of healthy eating. Maybe that is also the hardest for kids, but it is the initial concept, it is fundamental, that is where I want to start. Apart from it being healthy, there are some other reasons why I think it is simply essential for more fun in life as well. Here is my list:
The only way kids can get the entire range of nutrients they need to grow, develop, feel good in themselves and to support their young immunity system is by eating a good variety of food. When a particular nutrient is present in abundance, the surplus won’t be absorbed by the body. If you eat carrots 3 times a day, you’ll have more of the vitamine A than you need, but you won’t have the nutrients that are not present in carrots but in all sorts of other vegetables. What’s more, also the way you prepare the vegetable may result in different nutritious value, so we need to vary the way we eat the same vegetable as well.
Learn to eat new things
By eating lots of different things we learn to eat new things. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more interesting it becomes. It becomes a natural thing to learn to eat new things. Varying the preparation of the similar type of food can teach your kids to eat new things as well. Some kids prefer cauliflower in a rich cheese sauce, some prefer it raw with a dip, some prefer it simply plain but steamed, some may prefer the cauliflower crackers. If you keep trying and find one way they like it, it is likely other ways of preparing it will follow soon.
Going on play dates is more fun!
If your kids are used to a good range of different foods at home, they will find it easier to eat new foods in other places. When they go on a playdate after school for example. The other parents are likely to cook differently. It is never just the same like it is at home. If they are used to eating new things, they won’t mind and they’ll find it very interesting and take some ideas for new things home for you to try. If they are not used to any new types of food, they may struggle at tea time at their friend’s house, wouldn’t that be a shame!
Going out for dinner becomes much more fun, relaxing and healthy
Going out for dinner can be a challenge with kids when they don’t like new foods. You can be lucky if there is a kids menu and it is stuffed with kid’s favourites and one of them is also your kid’s favourite. In that case they may be happy, but they also may be eating rubbish where as there are lots more interesting things on the normal menu. If you can get them to pick something from the normal menu, a starter for example, they are likely to eat something much more adventurous and healthy.
Travelling becomes so much more interesting
If you are travelling, chances are you are eating out a bit more. You can try to eat as often as possible in your own accommodation, but that isn’t always possible. Besides, it would be an absolute waste if you didn’t go out for dinner once in a while at least so you can learn about the culinary aspects of the area you are visiting. My husband and I dream of returning to Indonesia one day, with the kids. One of the things we loved most about our holiday there was the food. What a shame it would be if our kids couldn’t enjoy the food there and then. That is why we cook quite a bit of Asian types of food in our house!
You don’t need to be a nutritionist to eat healthily
There is so much information available about healthy eating these days. I am not a nutritionist and I get confused sometimes, there is so much that we shouldn’t eat, so much that we should eat. Sometimes you even should and should not eat the same type of food or the rules may change completely all of a sudden. Variety is my way of dealing with this. Milk and dairy in general are a good example, we need the calcium but not the saturated fats in them. Also the production of cows milk isn’t good for the environment because of the methane production. So we use some cows milk but also some nut milks and soya milk and soya yoghurt.
Finally, it is much more fun for the one who is behind the stove!
It is not just so much more fun to cook new things quiet often, but also, if you do this often enough, the kids start to appreciate your efforts and dinner time becomes that lovely family time you always wished for. The bonus is that you can enjoy the variation in your dinners as well. Goodbye to the times you had sausages and mash three times a week!
I think it is the most satisfying thing to see my kids enjoying a good and healthy meal that I worked hard on, that is what motivates me for every meal I am cooking.
One final note, you don’t need very exotic and new ingredients to start working on variety, you can start with preparing something very well known like an apple for example. Can you prepare an apple in 10 different ways? That is a good starting point, give it a go, you will love it!