Over the last few years, the healthy and fitness industry has exploded. From Lucy Bee’s Coconut Oil to Joe Wicks’ world domination, we are now, like never before, inundated with cookbooks, fitness DVDs and lifestyle blogs aiming to change the way we eat, exercise and feel.
This is all well and good for us grown ups, but what about the little ones in our lives? We can’t, as much as we would love to, expect them to rustle up a fresh Greek salad in the evening – that duty falls on us.
So, what can we do to get kids eating healthier? Do we need to be doing more? What is already out there? Can kids actually enjoy broccoli? Or are they just biologically incompatible? This article is here to try and answer some of those questions.
Is there a childhood obesity crisis?
We’ve all seen the increasingly gloomy headlines:
“Child obesity rates on the rise” (BBC, Nov 2016)
“Child obesity crisis will get far worse” (Telegraph, March 2017)
“Fat children are fuelling the NHS crisis, not the elderly” (Telegraph, Feb 2017)
The NHS recently shed some light on the matter by releasing some hard-hitting statistics:
- Over a fifth of reception children are overweight or obese;
- Over a third of year 6 children are overweight or obese;
- London has the highest obesity rates in year 6 children than anywhere else in the country.
So, on the face of it, yes, there does seem to be a problem. But that means it’s down to us, savvy parents, to use exciting and creative ways to get, or at least encourage, the sugar monsters to eat healthier.
Getting kids healthy – the obstacles
Have you found yourself putting carrot sticks in lunch boxes, only for them to return in the exact state they left in? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
As we mentioned, getting kids to eat healthy isn’t a unique problem. Playgrounds across the country are packed with kids throwing away apples, bananas, and anything remotely beneficial to them. Chocolate however – that’s a different story – chocolate is passed from hand to hand like gold-dust.
This isn’t a 21st century phenomenon. Playgrounds are a haven for sweets, chocolate and frankly anything sugary – they always have, and always will be. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything; the trick here is to educate, be creative and make lunches that are enticing, healthy and of course, tasty!
Advertising and product placement
From the drum-playing, chocolate-loving gorilla, to The Midas Touch of the Skittles man, adverts are always going to be an obstacle when getting anyone, not just kids, to try and eat healthily. In one year alone, the food industry managed to spend over £250 million on advertising junk food – that’s hard to compete with.
What’s more – and if this hasn’t happened to you, congratulations – how many times have you been in a supermarket, packing away, when your child suddenly appears clasping a pack of Starburst? Product placement… They sure know how to get us…
The aim of the game is to stay on track, persevere, and try your best – you can’t do much more than that. Oh, and follow these great parent food hacks:
Healthy food hacks for kids
The NutriBullet has been given superhero status in the bubble office. They claim to have “started a health revolution that has transformed millions of lives” and who are we to argue.
The NutriBullet (or any ordinary blender for that matter) allows you to put a bunch of super healthy ingredients together and create a mysterious drink that kids will love.
Want to get some greens into your kids’ diet? Whizz up a Green Peach Smoothie!
bubble tip – give your smoothie a name. If your child loves dinosaurs, why not call it ‘Dino-Juice’?!
Fact: Kids love ice cream. So why not use this to your advantage and jump on the ‘nice cream’ bandwagon? It tastes great, and it’s packed with fresh, healthy ingredients. Would the kids normally ask for more spinach? Probably not. But you can guarantee they’ll be asking for a second helping of Popeye’s ice cream!
Relax and serve up some extra spoonfuls as the covert ingredients work their mighty magic.
Cook for your little captain and rustle up some fresh lettuce boats. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to fillings – chicken, lamb, tofu – they all work. Just create something visually appealing and watch the boats sink into their little mouths.
bubble tip: create a story – i.e. 3 boats are trapped at sea, trying to find their way home!
This is a staple parenting hack. It doesn’t matter what you’re serving up, cutting food into shapes that kids know and love will always work a treat.
Try cutting eggs into fun shapes, fruit into their favourite characters, or sandwiches into trains. Here are some examples:
Kids have little time to eat during school hours. Every day, they face a dilemma: finish eating their lunch or play with their friends before the bell rings – you can guess which one usually wins! That’s why it’s important to create lunches that are visually enticing.
bubble tip – Don’t make the same thing every day – mix it up. Use your child’s curiosity to your advantage and allow them to discover a different, tasty surprise throughout the school week.
Check out these amazing lunch box hacks by @TastyJunior:
Make healthy versions of the things they love
If you’ve got some chocolate fanatics in the house (which kid isn’t?!), Chocolate Covered Katie is your girl. She is a renowned blogger, famous for her healthy makeovers of classic desserts such as chocolate cake and ice cream.
Thanks to Katie, you can now serve up HEALTHY chocolate brownies – who would’ve thought the day would come. Her recipes are great for both kids and adults (the sweet tooth never goes away) – so make sure you check our her blog and Instagram – they come with a salivation warning.
Other tips for getting kids eating healthier
Get them involved
There’s a few reasons why this is important:
- They’ll be more inclined to eat meals that they’ve created.
- You can teach them about certain ingredients and why they should be eaten.
- It’s a great life lesson. Getting kids cooking at a young age can only bode well for future life!
- It’s a bonding experience. You can mess around, tell stories and enjoy some extra time with the little ones!
Educate, educate, educate
This may seem obvious. It’s not strictly a food hack, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. It doesn’t mean sitting and lecturing your kids on the importance of Vitamin B and D. Let it be fun, creative and engaging.
One of our sitters said she asks children what they want to be when they grow up. “If they want to be a teacher, they’re going to need to grow and learn lots of new things. How can they do that? By eating carrots and other healthy ingredients.”
This may not work for your little ones; every child is unique and responds differently – you know them better than anyone – so whether it’s through games, stories or pictures, spend some time teaching them about the importance of eating good food!
- London has the highest obesity rate in year 6 children than anywhere else in the UK.
Obstacles to kids eating healthily:
- Playgrounds – they are a haven for sweets and chocolate!
- Adverts – corporations spend over £250+million on advertising junk food;
- Product placement – sweets as you enter, chocolates as you leave, it’s hard to resist the temptation!
Healthy food hacks:
- Use a NutriBullet to whizz up a tasty smoothie packed with healthy ingredients;
- Home made ice cream (‘nice cream’) is perfect for getting superfoods into diets – click here for some great recipes;
- Cut foods into fun and creative shapes that your kids will love – take inspiration from their favourite animals and TV/book characters;
- Create fun and engaging lunch boxes utilising a lot of colour – click here to watch some top lunch box hacks;
- Make heathy versions of sweet treats – create healthy brownies and cakes.
Other tips for getting kids eating healthier:
- Get the kids involved – they’ll be more inclined to eat the food they’ve created and it’s a great way of spending some quality time together.
- Educate them! Whether it’s through games, stories or pictures, teach the little ones about the importance of eating good food!
- Persevere! There will be challenges, but stay creative and your hard work will pay off.
If you have other food hacks you’d like added to this article, or questions about any of the above, comment or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get in touch.