Top ten tips: Getting kids to eat healthily

Good eating habits start at home and it can be one of the most valuable lessons you ever give your kids. But before you sigh, remember that eating healthily needn't mean force-feeding your pride and joy salad and spinach.

Children eating healthily

With a bit of imagination, creativity and maybe a little bribery now and again, you can improve your kids' diet immeasurably - and maybe lose a few pounds yourself!

1. Make dinner an occasion

Lay on a show as well as a feast. Make mealtimes memorable by using your imagination rather than your culinary know-how. Themed meals such as a pirates' feast, a teddy bears' picnic or a superheroes' supper will excite little minds as well as their tummies. Costumes, music and activities - walk the plank anyone? - will help to create an unforgettable feast.

2. Get them involved in the cooking

Get the kids into the kitchen. Roll up their sleeves, put on their pinnies and show them what cooking's all about. It might be messy - there will be flour, sugar and tears (yours) - but it will definitely make them feel more involved and so proud of their creations, that they might actually eat them!

3. Present food creatively

Good cooking is also about presentation and kids are just as demanding as the rest of us. In this technicolour world, stimulation is needed even at suppertime. So be inventive - use cookie cutters to shape pies, quiches and sandwiches, transform bangers and mash into a smiley face, and make artful displays with fruit salad, trifle and cakes.

4. Make lunchboxes a treat

If your little cherub is fussy, or you have doubts about the quality of their school dinners, then line their lunchboxes with some tasty treats. Carrot sticks with a dip, roasted veg, chicken wraps and mini kebabs all make a welcome change from soggy sandwiches! Fill their Thermos with nourishing homemade soup or a chilled smoothie for a break-time boost.

5. Be selective with takeaways

Takeaway needn't be a dirty word so long as fast food isn't fat food. Big chains such as McDonalds and Burger King have launched lower-fat menus and now even sell fruit. If you're having fish and chips, then make sure they eat the fish rather than the batter and serve on a plate rather than in the wrappings - then you'll see how big the portions really are!

6. Set a good example

It’s no good moaning at your kids to eat their greens and then stuffing down a Chinese takeaway once they’ve gone to bed. Be prepared to eat everything you expect them to and try and eat with them as much as possible.

7. Allow sweet treats

A spoonful of sugar definitely helps the broccoli go down. Don’t make mealtimes monotonous. If you allow treats at the weekend and on special occasions, you’ll have more chance of getting them to eat their dinner during the week.

8. Take them out to eat

And take the kids out to eat when you can. Not only is it a treat (especially if they get to stay up past their bedtime!) but it’s also the best way to broaden their culinary horizons. And don’t worry about table tantrums – if eating out becomes second nature, they soon won’t play up!

9. Talk at the table

Make like the Waltons and create mealtime fun for all the family. Turn the TV off and get talking – laugh and joke as well as eat and drink. If dinnertime is something to look forward to, rather than a rush job, it will something be to savour rather than suffer.

10. Use bribery!

If Charlie knows he can play on his X-Box or go out on his bike if his plate is clear, he’s far more likely to finish off that casserole. Use this tactic sparingly though!