The many pleasures of mealtimes
Eating is an essential human function. Every race and culture has its own eating habits. Teaching them to children is one of the bases of bringing them up. The pleasure of mealtimes plays a fundamental role in passing on these habits. That’s why it’s important to have the family eating together.
Many health professionals think that an enjoyable shared meal is an important aspect in good health. It seems that food eaten too quickly, for example in front of the television, is nutritionally less well absorbed.
Fruits and Vegetables
It’s a common fact that fruits and vegetables are good sources of healthy nutrition, especially for growing up kids. Giving your child fruits and veggies early on is a good way to familiarise him with greens and cultivate good eating habits, while providing him with the essential nutrients he needs to grow. How do you encourage your child to try more veges? Well, by eating together as a family.
While all fruits and vegetables can be considered healthy, some are more suitable for young children due to their taste, texture or specific nutrients needed for growth and development. They also provide fibre to ward off constipation and keep the digestive system healthy.
All fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals, so you can choose the best fruit for your child based on its texture, hardness and taste. Some fruits, like apples, bananas and ciku, are also good sources of fibre.
The ideal source for the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your child needs, vegetables can be grouped into three categories:
1. Darker-coloured vegetables (green leafy, deep yellow or orange types)
- Deep yellow or orange types are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid
- Green, leafy vegetables are rich in calcium and iron, which are needed for a variety of functions, from ensuring healthy skin and sharp vision, to boosting your child’s resistance against infections and helping build strong bones, teeth and blood.
- Vegetables like spinach, kangkong, broccoli, peas, carrot, pumpkin and tomatoes are especially good.
2. Starchy vegetables
- These contain vital energy-giving carbohydrates, as well as fibre, vitamin B, and minerals like iron and magnesium.
- Try starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yam.
3. Lighter coloured vegetables
- Lighter coloured vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, radish, turnip and onions are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Steamed cauliflower florets make good finger food.
To preserve the nutrients in vegetables, it is a good idea to peel and cut them only when the recipe calls for it. Also, try to minimize the amount of water used for blanching or boiling, and avoid overcooking. Stewing is a good way of softening hard vegetables like potatoes and carrots, while keeping the nutrients in the sauce.
Enjoyable mealtimes for you and your child
By enjoying your family meal:
- You are making your child want to imitate you.
- You are showing your child that eating is something enjoyable and entertaining.
- You’re doing yourself some good.
How do you do it?
- Find quick and easy recipes, and always have the basic ingredients at hand.
- Settle down comfortably at the table and take your time.
Some practical tips
When you can, prepare some dishes with your child:
- Show her what you’re doing and explain things as you go along. Get her to take part in the process; even if she is very small, she can go to the shops with you to learn about fruits and vegetables.
- A child’s sense of taste is not the same as an adult’s. It is often more sensitive, but this is not a reason to deprive her of strong-tasting foods such as cheese. Instead, offer her a very small quantity so that she can gradually get used to it.
If your child likes a certain food:
Repeat the experience several times, presenting it in the same way, so that your child takes pleasure in finding this food again and remembering it. You can vary the same recipe later and come up with different presentations using herbs, decoration, etc.
Often young children don’t like vegetables because they don’t find them filling. Try mixing them with rice, noodles or pasta.
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