Lies to encourage children to eat healthy food

Being creative with approaches to food

I'll never forget the time I convinced my 18 month old son that a carrot stick was really chocolate. I was just about to eat a Flake chocolate bar when he came up and attempted to take it from me. Flakes aren't exactly the cleanest of foods and besides, I'd been looking forward to it all day, so I grabbed a carrot stick from the table and put it behind the wrapper so that from his perspective, it looked like it was coming from inside. He very seriously pulled out the entire carrot, hardly believing his luck that Mummy was letting him steal her food, and happily toddled off to eat it, leaving me with my chocolate in peace.

Getting children to eat healthily can be a struggle. Sometimes it can take a little creative thinking to get them to take just one small bite of something you know they'll love. My eight year old daughter decided one day that she didn't like onions, which would be fair enough except for the fact that the rest of us love them and she'd waited until dinner was served before informing us of this new fact. She looked at the bowl placed in front of her, turned her nose up in disgust and starting picking out the bits, complete with yucky sound effects.

"Don't do that," my husband told her.

"But I hate onions," she whined.

"It's OK," he responded. "They're not onions. They're Gebrovian mountain bulbs."

"Huh?"

"Just give them a go. If you don't like them, that's fine."

She took a delicate little nibble. "Mmmmm! These are good!" she beamed and happily cleaned out her bowl.

A few days later, she came in as I was chopping up some onions for dinner.

"What are those?" she asked.

Remembering what my husband had said, I replied "Gebrovian mountain bulbs."

"That's funny," she said. "They look exactly like onions." I sighed and pondered whether I should attempt to keep up the pretense.

I decided to come clean. "That's because they are onions."

"Oh." She thought for a moment. "I guess I like onions after all!" She skipped off to play a bit more before dinner.

Ideally, we should never lie to our children, but sometimes it's the lesser of two evils and a little white lie doesn't do any harm. When I told my now nine year old son the story of the chocolate carrot, he thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard - and he loves snacking on carrots if he feels a bit peckish.

In a family of seven, it's hard enough to cook meals that all the children will love without indulging every little whim when one of them suddenly decides they don't like something just to see if they can get away with it. It's a slippery slope towards cooking seven different dinners every day and I have better things to do than turn my home into a restaurant. Sometimes all a child needs is the right approach and encouragement to try something and if the idea of Gebrovian mountain bulbs is intriguing enough to get them to taste a spoonful of something you've spent ages creating, then surely that's got to be better than turning mealtimes into a battlefield? Certainly my daughter didn't have a problem discovering that she'd been eating something she 'hated' all along.

So next time you're faced with trying to get your child to eat their greens, why not turn them into something more exotic like monkey brains or Hawaiian apples? They might surprise you with how adventurous they can be!