14 ways to combat fussy eaters

Chefs and food experts on how to get kids to finish their plate

Ehab Elgarbawi, head chef at Wagamama

Plan their snacks
Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling a child’s appetite at meal times. Make snacks as nutritious as possible, without depriving your children of occasional chips or cookies, especially at parties and other social events.

Try not to use food as a reward
When foods, such as sweets, are used as a reward, children may assume that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods. For example, telling children that they will get dessert if they eat all of their vegetables sends the wrong message about both dessert and vegetables.

Peter Drescher, creator of Power Bites at Mövenpick Hotel & Resorts

Cook with them
An exciting way to get children to eat is to invite them to cook with you. Even if they are small, they can help in the kitchen - and whilst cooking, you can explain the benefits of the ingredients. This makes learning fun and relevant for them. If your children become involved in choosing or preparing their own meals, they will be more interested in eating what they create.

Be a role model
Don’t bring junk foods into the house. Remember, it is you that is in charge of the food in the cupboards and fridge. By having fewer or no junk foods around, you can convince your children to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. Be honest with yourself about what messages you are actually sending to your children by what you do.

Gilles Perrin, chef at Atlantis The Palm

Make packed lunches healthy
The most nutritious lunches include foods from at least three food groups, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be the traditional sandwich, fruit, and juice. As long as kids eat a balanced and varied meal, it’s perfectly fine to pack hummus, whole-grain crackers, and yogurt or leftovers from last night’s dinner.
The key is to respect your child’s eating style and preferences. Some kids derive comfort from eating the same foods day in and day out.

Chef Alvaro, head chef of Salero Tapas & Bodega, Kempinski Mall of the Emirates

Shop with them
Make your kids part of the shopping experience by letting them choose vegetables and fruit. Children will feel more curious about eating something they picked in the supermarket. Once in the house, name the preparation of the vegetables your child picked after their name, for example ‘the gratin broccoli of Tom’ or ‘the sautéed green beans of Jennifer’. Make this an important moment by sitting all together around the dining table and sharing this ‘special dish’. If we make this occasion and dish special, they will want to have it again and again!

Cool down with fruit
Dubai summer is just around the corner, and long days in the swimming pool or on the beach are coming. Bring with you pieces of fresh fruit, like pears or apples. Also, a great idea is to make a blend of carrots and orange juice at home and bring it with you. This is a sweet mixture of fruits and vegetables that kids will love, full of antioxidants and beta-carotene that will help protect their skin.

Lorraine Sinclair executive chef at Fairmont Dubai

Create food art on the plate
Try to be creative and imaginative when preparing their lunches. You can use a cutter in shape of their favorite cartoon character, or simply create a work of art using the vegetables, for example: use carrots as nose, olives as eyes, broccoli as trees, and cucumber as mouth and so on.

Use fun techniques
Engage them in fun activities during food preparation. Buy a chef outfit and get it customised with their name. You can also set up your kitchen like a film studio, let them pretend they are a famous chef on the television. Teach older children how to use a ceramic knife and cut up the vegetables. 

Hide vegetables
If all else fails, puree it! Take a simple beef or chicken burger and add in some pureed vegetables; your child will devour it without knowing they are eating vegetables!
Before adding the puree to the meat, all you have to do is blanch the vegetable in some salted water, blend it and then fry it off with a little olive oil. Let it cool down and then add it to your meat mix. 
This can be used for stews, ragouts, minces and patties.

Mum’s foody tricks

Dubai mums share their tips for convincing their children to eat healthy food…

Kellie Whitehead, founder of Mamavents (www. amaknowsdubai.com) and Mum to Hermione (13), Charlie (nine) and James (eight)
‘My kids are so picky, but one thing that always works is a basic tomato pasta sauce. I cook vegetables and blend them into the sauce so they are none the wiser!’

Georgina Lee, Mum of Francesca (two) and Sofia (one)
‘I give the girls Raw chocolate bars as an occasional treat. They look and taste like regular chocolate, but they are made from raw, organic cacao, which has seven times the antioxidant power of regular chocolate. I get mine from www.greenheartuae.com.’

Sarah Clemence, photographer (www.sarahc.me) and Mum to Jack (five), Cooper (three) and Riley (one)
‘I steam and puree zucchini, broccoli and apple, then add it to muffin mixture – they wolf them down when they are out the oven!’

Elena Artal, Mum to Lewis (three) and Daniel (six months)
‘My son would never eat fish, so I buy healthy cuts of white fish, coat in egg white, and then roll in smashed corn flakes – and then I cook in the oven. I serve them with cucumber and carrot sticks –and it’s his favourite dinner!

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