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By Annabel Karmel

When you announce that dinner is ready and your child responds with “I don’t want dinner, mummy”, you know you’re in for an interesting time.

I can recall regularly being locked in a battle of wills with my three children when they were growing-up. It’s often difficult to find mutual ground and if your child gets what they want, they hold the cards, which puts you in a vulnerable position.

Introducing new foods into the mix can often add more fuel to their fussiness.  Yet, it’s so important to get children trying as many different healthy, nutritious foods as possible from an early age to help eliminate picky eating as they grow-up.

Whilst it may seem easier to get them trying new foods at home under the watchful eye of mum or dad, packed lunches provide a prime opportunity to get your little one exercising their independence and trying new things for themselves.

Mealtimes at home can often be emotionally charged, but once your child is at school with their friends, there is often a desire to fit in, and if the other children are munching away, they are naturally likely to follow rather than cause a fuss.  Yet, new research from Warburtons has found that over half (53%) of UK households stick to the same repertoire of lunchbox ideas that they know their child will eat, ultimately limiting the opportunity to explore.

If you’re still yet to be sold on taking a step-on from the safety net of ham sandwiches and cheese wraps, here are my top tips for getting children exploring through their lunchbox.

 

The way you prepare foods can be the difference between a tantrum and a clean plate. Children love to pick up food and eat it with their fingers so why not get them dicing with new veggies such as carrot, cucumber and red pepper. Cutting them into small batons will make them easy to hold and fun to crunch on.  Pack a few of these in their lunchbox in slightly damp kitchen roll to keep them moist, alongside their favourite sarnie and some houmous for dipping. I promise it’ll be a whole different ball game than if you present them with a side of boiled carrots with dinner.

 

For those rainy weekend afternoons, get your little helper in kitchen prepping lunch for the week. By making something together from scratch, you’ll stand a good chance of instilling a love of good, healthy food. My Cheese and Cherry Tomato Muffins are delicious and packed full of goodness. It’s a great recipe to make with the kids and the perfect mid-afternoon snack or lunchbox filler.
 

My children used to love growing cress in egg cups on the shelf in our kitchen. Growing your own vegetables in the garden or even herbs on the window sill is a great way to get children excited about foods. They’ll love adding their freshly picked home-grown cress, chives and tomatoes into their sandwiches.

 

It’s all about making mealtimes exciting and positioning trying new foods as fun. My Sushi Sandwich Rolls are perfect to get children eating fish (if they weren’t so keen before!). You could also include some kids chopsticks in their lunchbox for added further fun factor.
 

Reward schemes such as a sticker chart in the kitchen can work wonders for enticing trial of new foods. And why not let them get crafty at the same time and decorate their personalised chart?  Give them a sticker each time they try a new food, and when they’ve collected a few stickers, reward them with a prize. Make the first one easily attainable to incentivise your child.

 

When you’re prepping their lunchbox, tell them about the foods you’re including and where they come from. Kids love to tell stories, but they love to hear them too, so pack in plenty of positives.  You’ll be surprised how easily this can entice children to eat new foods and explore new lunchbox ideas, especially as they can share this fun knowledge with friends.

*Survey Monkey Research among 3,091 UK parents with children aged 0-15 (28.07.17 to 07.08.17).

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