Fussy Eaters

Fussy Eaters

Now this refers to the mini variety of fussy eater, but I guess it applies to adults too! My children are not vegan and we do not restrict their diet in any way: they’re just too good at doing that themselves! Here are some tricks I use to get everybody eating healthily in our household…

Getting legumes into children

  • If your child likes things plain and everything separate, offer cooked beans or chickpeas on their own, either as part of a meal or a snack
  • If your child is a dunker, offer hummus with bread, toast, veggie sticks, bread sticks, cooked broccoli or cooked pasta
  • If your child likes sandwiches, spread a thin layer of hummus then add the normal filling
  • If your child likes rice or other grains, mix a few dry red lentils in during cooking
  • If your child likes pasta, choose legume pasta varieties such as lentil pasta: I sometimes give cooked pasta as a snack if I feel they haven’t had enough protein that day
  • If your child likes bolognese, add lentils and / or beans into the sauce
  • If your child likes creamy sauces, make with soya milk and / or add in chickpeas or tofu
  • Offer soya milk as a drink or make it into milk shake or hot chocolate; add to smoothies, cereal or porridge. If your kids don’t have dairy, choose fortified brands
  • How about soya yoghurt? Offer it plain or add date syrup, stewed fruit or high fruit jam. Or mix with muesli or granola
  • Does your child like baked beans?
  • Use chickpeas in cakes
  • Serve peas: frozen peas are so easy to prepare. Some children even like to eat them frozen. Also fresh, raw peas are lovely
  • Add frozen peas to rice or pasta when it is nearly cooked
  • Will they eat soya beans? The frozen variety are green, sweet and creamy like peas so I often cook the two together for extra protein
  • Try blended soups that contain beans, lentils or peas. My children are more likely to eat blended soup if it’s served in a cup. Don’t make it too thick though
  • Try kids with falafel, vegan burgers or lentil loaf

Getting nuts and seeds into kids

  • Try different nut butters in different ways: on toast, in a sandwich, in a wrap, with melted chocolate and banana in a wrap, with mashed banana on toast…
  • Put nut butter into homemade cakes and biscuits
  • Serve pine nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds as a snack to small children, and any nuts or seeds to older kids who are less likely to choke
  • Drizzle melted chocolate over nuts
  • Make lentil loaf or burgers containing nuts or nut butters
  • Try hummus
  • If you make bread add in some seeds, or buy seeded breads
  • Use ground almond in place of some of the flour when baking
  • Sprinkle small seeds such as shelled hemp or sesame seeds onto, or stir into, meals
  • Try nut milks: drink as is or make into milk shake or hot chocolate; add to smoothies, cereal or porridge; and use them to make creamy sauces. Select brands that have a high nut percentage (many brands contain as little as 2% nuts, you want around 5%). Plenish and Rude Health cashew milks are my favourite milk variety and are great when cooked in porridge or white sauces

Getting veggies into kids

  • If your child likes things separate offer different cooked and raw veggies seperately as part of a meal or a snack
  • If your child likes dunking, give them thick soup or hummus to dunk veggie sticks into
  • Add grated carrot to sandwiches
  • Make blended soups and offer them in a cup
  • Blend veggies into tomato-based pasta sauce
  • Try baked sweet potato instead of white potato
  • Put loads of veggies in bolognese sauces, cottage pies, lasagna and stews
  • Try veggie crisps: you can buy dehydrated veggies that are not fried
  • Mash cauliflower or root veggies into potato, or try bubble and squeak
  • If your child likes vegan burgery-type things, add some veggies into these

General tips

  • Offer healthy plant foods regularly, even if they are refused. Kids tastes change and evolve over time. This is way easier if the kids are eating the same (or the same-ish) food as you. This is what I mean by the same-ish: if we have a sweet potato and chickpea curry with rice, I’ll bake some sweet potato for my son and he can have that with plain chickpeas and rice, all served in separate bowls. We are not eating exactly the same thing but as close as possible
  • To make things easier on yourself, find 7 meals that either everyone likes or that can be adapted for different family members. Designate one meal per day of the week. If same-ish food is eaten by different people, work out exactly what you need to make so that everyone has a balanced meal. If you can’t find 7 meals, give kids left overs one day whilst you eat something else. Make batches of meals they do eat and freeze small portions, or perhaps that day they can make up for a less than balanced meal through healthy snacks
  • If kids go through phases of eating hardly any veggies, up their fruit portions and serve loads of legumes, nuts and whole grains
  • Give kids healthy food when they are really hungry. So if dinner isn’t ready yet but the kids are starving, cut up a carrot for them to much whilst they’re waiting, or give them a bit of hummus and toast. Defrost some frozen peas and sweetcorn quickly in boiling water, or open a tin of chickpeas and give them a few whilst they wait. If they spoil their appetite for dinner it doesn’t really matter because they’ve eaten something healthy. Give a smaller portion at dinner so as not to overwhelm them if they are nearly full after their snack
  • Dont give big portions at meals anyhow. Kids are more likely to have a positive association with veg if they don’t have to eat mountains of the stuff
  • Offer healthy snacks, but maybe not just healthy snacks for older kids. First to qualify, little kids don’t know about chcolcolate until you give it to them so you can get away with serving them healthy snacks all the time (unless they have older siblings that is). Older kids know about rubbish snacks and may feel resentful if they are never allowed them. They’re also more likely to go crazy at parties when they are on offer. But limit the treats to when kids are no longer ravenous (ravenous times are an opportunity to get in the good stuff). Healthy snacks don’t have to be boring though: on top of all the pre-dinner snack ideas above you can make cakes and biscuits (there are healthy recipes on this website and all over the web as a whole), you can offer exciting fresh and dried fruit varieties (berries, mango, figs, dates, raisins…etc), you can quickly cook up apples and dried fruit in the microwave. Buy whole food fruit and nut bars (such as Nak’d bars) and baked fruit sweets (such as Bear Claws and Yo-yos): these contain shed loads of sugar but they’re better than Haribo. Make smoothies, serve 100% fruit juice (sparingly) instead of squash, make hot chocolate using date syrup and soya or nut milk
  • Dont serve sugary cereal for breakfasts. These are treat foods and breakfast is a meal. Instead give them shredded wheat, porridge, muesli, fruit, nuts, seeds, toast with nut butter… even healthy cake and biscuit recipes (such as the ones on this website) are preferable to a bowl of sugary cereal. My kids are allowed cereal in the evening though so there is no ban on it, it’s just not for breakfast!