Making it easy for your child – and yourself!

Supporting your child to enjoy a range of food doesn’t need to be stressful and hard. A key action at mealtimes is to make it easy for your child to help themselves.

  • If you’re serving new or unfamiliar food then place it on the table on a sharing plate or bowl and help yourself first.
  • Tell your child what the food is but don’t ask them if they want to eat, taste or try it!
  • Also make sure there is something on the table that they generally enjoy eating.
  • Put everything within their reach, and make it super simple for them to put some on their own plate/bowl without asking for your help or attracting attention to themselves.
  • Don’t ask them what they think it tastes like – or ask them to do anything at all – allow your child to ask the questions! They are learning to enjoy different foods and engaging their curiosity is important.
  • If they ask what it tastes like then discuss it openly as if they are an adult.
  • Give them space and time to think about it and choose what to do.
  • If they choose to take some of the new food and eat it, then ask them afterwards: “what did it taste like?”
  • If they choose not to put any of the new food onto their plate then that is their decision, but don’t offer an alternative (you have ensured that there is something else they generally enjoy available and that is enough).
  • Keep offering the new food regularly at other meals, alongside something they are familiar with. This is the hardest step! Most parents stop after offering a new food a handful of times, but many children need much more time to learn than this.

There are many other things you can do and say to help your child eat well: sign up for weekly emails to get more inspiration!

Top children’s book to encourage healthy eating (and laughter!)

My ultimate book to encourage children to eat vegetables is:
“Vegetable Glue” by Susan Chandler and Elena Odriozola

Brilliantly funny, great illustrations, and conveys the healthy eating message in an unusual and accessible way for children.

I cannot recommend highly enough, just thinking about it makes me smile!

Click HERE to see the book on Amazon:

Back To Basics…

I like variety at peppersmealtimes and often experiment with my cooking. This week I was reminded that simplifying food can be a good thing, and not to over-think what to cook!

A friend of my son’s comes for tea regularly, so I know some of his favourite meals. Struggling for inspiration this week with a fridge of leftovers, I remembered that he loves pasta with pesto sauce and chicken or bacon.

“That’s boring”, I thought, but I had bacon pieces and pesto in the fridge so I started frying the bacon pieces. Then I chopped a green and red pepper and added them to the pan, thinking “they’re going to pick the pepper bits out”.

After putting the wholewheat spaghetti on to boil, I added a good scoop of pesto, some half-fat creme fraiche and a bit of milk to the bacon & peppers and heated it through. The meal took less than half an hour to prepare. “This feels like cheating”, I thought.

I drained the spaghetti, mixed it with the sauce and put it in bowls. The three boys all added grated parmesan – and wolfed the whole lot. And they all say they don’t really like peppers! Hmmmm. Time to simplify? 🙂

Fab Feedback From Nursery Staff

1229717_origThis year has marked a change of direction for Food Monsters, towards providing training for nursery staff in more accessible, affordable ways. So far three in-hous
e Workshops have taken place in Edinburgh nurseries, and the feedback has been so good that I cannot keep it to myself any more!

Pictured are staff from Bright Horizons Bruntsfield Nursery getting hand-on with lemons.

So what did staff think about the Workshop?

“very enjoyable: range of activities, worksheets and activity plans is helpful”
“well explained, friendly relaxed atmosphere, easy to follow, enjoyed doing the hands-on activity”
“very enjoyable and well explained”
“it was interesting and something different, well organised and I liked the activity”
“it was really good and I was impressed with the video, and the practical activity helped me understand how to engage the children into this experience”
“it showed a simple way to get children involved with new foods, and the fact that it is an easy activity will encourage the staff to do it”
“I enjoyed it, good information and really good ideas, activity was simple and kids will really enjoy it”
I can’t wait to do more Workshops and get the positive ideas “out there”. I would like to thank all the nursery staff who have taken part enthusiastically so far!

By working together we really can succeed at teaching children to enjoy healthy food by the time they start primary school 🙂

From “wonky veg” to yummy meals…

This week I have been using “wonky veg” from Asda in cooking.9366445

A few thoughts:

  • The vegetables didn’t seem very wonky! I was expecting odd shapes, and was a little disappointed that there was nothing to giggle at 🙂
  • I thought there was a lot of veg included for £3.50.4459027
  • The box contained potatoes, carrots, red onions, leeks, parsnips, cabbage, cucumber & green peppers.
  • I would definitely buy “wonky veg” in the supermarket after using this box.
  • I used 3 small red onions, one large potato, 2 carrots and a parsnip in the chowder pictured. I added a small amount of bacon, sweetcorn, chicken stock, milk & dried parsley. Thumbs up from the whole family for taste!

(Please note that Food Monsters is not endorsed by Eat Better Feel Better or by Asda).8719655

Why should children enjoy eating healthy food?

Today’s post is about talking to children positively about enjoying healthy food.

Finding reasons for children to enjoy healthy food that work for them is really important. Remember that the reasons apply to the child, not necessarily to you!

Think about the child’s interests:8017286

  • Do they like sports, dancing, or jumping on a trampoline?
  • Would they like shiny hair, or good skin?
  • Would they like to be able to concentrate at school?
  • Do they want to feel energetic and good about themselves?

Tell children about the health benefits of foods when you offer them. Do some research with children by looking up nutrition facts on the Internet.

Download the ‘quick facts’ list of vegetables and fruit and their benefits below, and use it when talking to children. Don’t make it a big deal, just throw in the odd comment, e.g. do you know that broccoli is good for your bones? Stick the list on your fridge and you may find that your children start educating you about the benefits of fruit and veg!

Talk about the healthy foods that you enjoy too, and how you feel after eating them.

Good luck 🙂

Store-cupboard essentials: beans & Lentils

You probably use tinned baked beans already, but how much do you use other types of tinned beans and lentils?7629495_orig From a practical point of view they could not be easier to use, and just need heated through.

They provide protein, fibre, iron and B vitamins, and a portion of beans, lentils or pulses counts towards your five portions of fruit and veg per day. If you would like to increase your child’s nutrient intake then look no further!

Top Tips:

  • Get more tinned beans (and nutrients) by choosing those in unsalted water.
    If your child likes traditional baked beans, start with small pale-coloured tinned beans, such as haricot beans. Once your child has got used to these then you can try different varieties like larger cannellini beans, or small and dark black be1305705_origans.


  • Add a small amount of the beans to familiar meals like savoury mince or casserole, around 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. They will blend in to these meals more easily and provide a soft and creamy texture. Over time you can increase the amount of beans.


  • Some good meat and bean combinations are: cannellini beans with beef, chickpeas or green lentils with lamb, and haricot beans with pork or sausages.
    Beans and lentils are very filling, so you don’t always need to serve potatoes or rice with them. Instead add wholemeal pitta bread and you will tick even more nutritional boxes, and save yourself more time!

Next time: ways to talk about healthy eating with kids

And In The New This Week…

I was delighted to be selected as one of the Healthy Helpers for the Scottish Government’s Eat Better Feel Better Campaign recently 🙂

The Campaign was featured in the Daily Record on Saturday.

Click on the image to the right for more about the Campaign and the Healthy Helpers, and look out for events in your local area.

Next time: Store-cupboard essentials: beans & lentils