Have your children fallen into a steady diet of chicken nuggets and pasta with white sauce? Let these parents and experts show you the way to get your kids to eat healthy. Or at least, healthier. (Hint: it’s not just about hiding vegetables. Just sometimes)
Lead by example
Dubai mom Hadil Alkhatib, owner of The Roost Rotisserie, has always given her children smaller, slightly more bland versions of healthy adult food. She believes parents can cut through all the noise and hassle by remembering a simple truth: “They do what you do.”
Have an ongoing conversation
“I explain why we eat our fruits and vegetables and not too many processed things,” says Dubai yoga and stretch instructor Clare Moukabaa. ”It’s the type of education that wasn’t around much when I was growing up.”
Keep lunch boxes simple
“Only add in things you’re happy that they are eating,” says Moukabaa. She recommends a mix of fruits, vegetables, carbs and healthy fats.
Focus on routine
“It’s all about habit and patience,” says Yum in the Box founder, Sara Ghosn. Kids don’t like change, so try to limit massive differences and focus on small adjustments.
“If you instill that routine into their lives, children will follow accordingly.”
Involve the kids
“This makes it more fun for them and gives them a chance to understand the different elements that make a healthy meal,” says Andrew Matthews, head chef of the new Dubai children’s restaurant White + the Bear.
Try making things cute
A whole range of bento boxes are available online to create enviable meals, often with Japanese-inspired cuteness (think smiling bunny rabbit sandwiches and eyes on rice). These, however, are the opposite of time saving. Pinterest is full of fun ideas, too.
Then, hide the veggies
“If you’re dealing with a child that is very picky, it always helps to sneak a few veggies in the foods they or to integrate them as healthy sauces,” says Matthews. Deceptively Delicious, a cookbook by Jessica Seinfield, contains plenty of hidden veggie recipes and tips that will help get your kids to eat healthy.
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Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist. In addition to working as editor-in-chief of Women's Health Middle East and Men's Health Middle East, Danae has written for The Sunday Times, CNN Travel, Dubai Tourism, The Guardian, Afar, Bloomberg and many more. She's based in Dubai and is a trainer at Crank. instagram.com/danaemercer