If you thought parental creativity was limited to colouring in and crafts, think again. Accredited practising dietitian Kellie Billinski says thinking outside the square with food is the best way to get fussy kids eating healthier.
"As a parent, you're always trying to think of different ways to make food interesting," she says. "Even if they keep resisting, keep offering and present it in a different way. Often you have to offer kids something 10 times before they eat it."
There are countless clever ways to hide healthy food, however Billinski says it's also important we communicate to children that eating fruit and vegetables is important.
"In some senses I don't like to disguise things because eating vegetables is good for kids' health and it's good for them to know that," she says.
But for all those other times when you want to get some healthy foods in without a fuss, here's Billinski's advice
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Make a pretty plate
The way healthy foods are presented can have as big an impact on a child's enthusiasm as the taste. "Chop up vegetables into nice shapes and let them help you make a tree on the plate," Billinski says. "You can even make little flowers with strawberries, using chopped apple as the leaves."
A grater is a mum's best friend when it comes to disguising healthy foods. "You can add grated zucchini and mashed pumpkin to mashed potato, or put grated carrot or grated zucchini into meat sauce in lasagne," Billinski says. This trick also works well for homemade sausage rolls, hamburger patties and meatballs.
Go healthy when they're hungry
Kids are often ravenous after school and offering healthy snacks is an ideal way to boost their nutrient intake. "I cut up cucumber and carrots to give to my kids before dinner," Billinski says. "Otherwise they'll eat their favourite things first at dinner and be too full for their vegies."
Related: Pear and walnut oat slide
Put vegetables on pizza
Pizza might be a trademark "junk" food, but Billinski says it's one of the easiest things to make healthy at home. "Use wholemeal pita pockets and top them with mushrooms, a little bit of ham and low fat cheese," she says. "That way you're not disguising it but they're more likely to eat it.
Make healthy muffins
Whether you bake savory or fruit muffins, they're one of the easiest things to make healthy. "Use a healthier oil, such as canola oil, and less than the recipe asks for," Billinski suggests. "Use wholemeal flour too because it has more fibre and nutrients."
Add some iron
Iron is an important nutrient that helps transport oxygen around the body to keep kids energetic and focused. You can iron-fortify your home-bakes by adding some Farex baby rice cereal. "If I'm making scrolls or pikelets or muffins, I add another half a cup into the mix to make it iron-fortified, which keeps kids more alert," says accredited practicing dietitian Kate Di Prima, and author of More Peas Please, Solutions For Feeding Fussy Eaters