We are delighted to present this blog by Helen Cassidy, Nutritional Therapist and Owner at Food Hugs.  Also, see free recipe below.


Bestowing good eating habits on our children from an early age is a gift for life, like riding a bicycle or learning how to swim.

Explaining the benefits of good food in a fun way gives them an understanding of how eating well makes them feel good in their skin.  Nirvana for me is when my darling 5 year old enjoys what he’s eating AND it’s ‘good for his body’….it’s a super-smiley-scrumpdidliumptous double whammy!

There’s no better time than Spring to think about new healthy eating habits to introduce into your child’s life. Sun and fresh air – at last! – spark enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.[/one_half_last] [divider]

So let’s take a look at some ideas:

1. Choose healthier versions of what they eat already

  • Staple foods: Switch from white to brown…..brown rice, brown/wholemeal bread & crisp bread/crackers, wholegrain pasta, oats (porridge), oatcakes, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Treats: How about frozen Innocent fruit tubes, instead of ice pops? Popcorn or nuts, instead of crisps (though not for under 5s due to choking risk). Home-made sugar free flapjacks or brownies, instead of biscuits?

2. Work with flavours your child likes already

  • Flavours: My son, Jack, loves lemon, he sucks them whole, so we have various versions of ‘lemony vegetables’, including cabbage, broccoli, etc.
  • Tutti frutti: Let your child assemble their own fruit yogurt by mashing their favourite fruit into natural probiotic yogurt, e.g. strawberries, raspberries. It will have much less sugar in it than store versions, but still taste sweet.
  • Dips: Jack helped me make a dip of 70% chocolate with milk and almond butter – served with previously abhorred carrot sticks. Needless to say, every stick was eaten and the pot licked clean.
  • Spreads: If your child likes peanut butter or cheese, try grating carrot into it and adding raisins. Serve with sliced apple on oatcakes.

3. Introduce new food with a fun name.  

The following ideas were easily incorporated as they sparked Jack’s curiosity:

  • Eggy Pancake’: a thin egg omelette, rolled up like a pancake. Introduced after pancake Tuesday last year, and now a favourite lunch.
  • Berry Surprise’: thawed frozen or fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries), topped with Glenisk natural yogurt and granola (reduced sugar varieties, such as Paddy O’s).
  • ‘Sprinkles’: ground seeds (Linwoods, or ground flaxseed from Lidl). Go for a mix that includes linseed/flaxseed, for Omega 3 oils. Sprinkle liberally on the morning cereal.
  • Spaceman Pie’: for a space-obsessed wee astronaut, renaming our vegetable-packed shepherds pie worked a treat. Smart re-branding was all it took for him to try it, and like it.

4. Always have a stock of healthy snacks, especially in your bag

  • Fruit – there’s such a range to choose from. Start with what your child already likes and work from there. Little containers are great for this.
  • Nuts & seeds
  • ‘No added sugar’ bars such as Nakd bars or the Organix soft oaty bars (both from Tesco)
  • Dried fruit, especially organic dried apricots, a good source of vitamin A, iron and calcium
  • Veggie sticks with dips (yogurt, hummus, avocado, peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, etc)
  • Portions of cheese with wholewheat crackers or oatcakes

5. Try something new on picnics

Away from your normal routine or the kitchen table, the fresh air works wonders on children. The novelty of a picnic can be distraction enough. So forgo the crisps and usual sugar-drenched suspects for a feast of crackers, fruit, cheese, dips, nuts, yogurts, veggie sticks, etc.

Aiming to be positive about new experiences and only introducing one idea/change at a time are both helpful approaches. Maybe it’s just the age Jack is at, but if he thinks something will give him a competitive advantage, he’ll give it a go. Winning an arm wrestle after eating a portion of spinach reinforces the point. Cheating, maybe, but we all feel good about the experience!

Equally, if he doesn’t fancy it, we don’t make a fuss. But we’ll try to introduce it again another day, in another way. Often it just takes a few repetitions before kids finally accept the strange taste or texture of a new food.

We’ve all been through this. Remember when you tried something for the very first time – coffee, tea, a strange exotic fruit, maybe?  It probably tasted weird or unpleasant, but then you were simply enjoying it after a few more tries. So patience and persistence pays off when helping your children explore and expand their exciting new world of tastes and textures.

Free recipe

Sugar Free Carrot, Raisin & Pineapple Buns

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