Food is a key ingredient for a happy, healthy child. So, what can you do if your child only eats varying shades of beige?

Here are some tips to help your kids get all the essential nutrients they need – especially if you have a picky eater.

Get to know important nutrients

Get to know important nutrients

The first tip is to familiarise yourself with important nutrients so you’re aware of what your kids might be missing out on. 
It’s especially important to pay attention to these ones:  

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B12

Varying quantities of these nutrients are present in different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, dairy, meat products, and meat alternatives. If your child eats a wide variety of whole foods and a rainbow of colours from fruits and vegetables, their diet is likely to meet all their nutritional needs. 

However, only one in two Kiwi kids eats three or more servings of vegetables per day, the recommended amount from the Ministry of Health. Similarly, just one in two children in New Zealand eats two or more servings of meat, fish, poultry, or eggs per day. 

Generally speaking, kids could do with more vegetables for their nutrients, vitamins, and fibre, as well as meat or meat alternatives for iron.

How to sneak in more veggies

Some kids will eat veggies if they are hidden in foods they love. Here are some ideas to try.

  • Spinach and seed smoothie. Add spinach and pumpkin seeds to a base of banana, frozen blueberries, and milk. 
  • Hidden veggie spaghetti bolognaise. Make a homemade bolognese sauce in the food processor with tinned tomatoes and pureed veggies. 
  • Homemade muffins. Muffins are a great way to add in extra fruit and veggies. Try adding chopped spinach and capscium to cheese muffins, or adding grated carrot to sweet apple muffins. 
  • Hidden veggie macaroni cheese. The white sauce for macaroni cheese is a great place to hide pureed cauliflower and onion.  
  • Embrace dipping sauces. Kids are often more likely to munch on some raw veggies if they can dip them in hummus – or to eat cooked veggies with some tomato sauce. Some sauces are high in sugar so it’s a good idea to look out for low-sugar options. 

How to sneak in more veggies

How to sneak in more iron-rich foods

How to sneak in more iron-rich foods

Iron is important in any diet, but it’s especially essential during periods of growth – such as throughout childhood and adolescence. If a child is deficient in iron for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to anaemia, which is linked with impaired immune function, fatigue, and some learning effects. 

Here are some iron-rich foods your kids might enjoy. 

  • Pulse pasta. Many supermarkets now sell pasta made from lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes which are high in iron. It looks and tastes similar to wheat pasta – once you’ve added a sauce, your kids probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

  • Add pumpkin seeds to everything. The humble pumpkin seed includes plenty of iron – sprinkle them on cereal, add them to muffins, and hide them in smoothies.

  • Cheesy beef and bean quesadillas. Quesadillas are toasted tortillas/wraps – and they are delightfully beige at first glance! Sneak some beef and beans among the cheesy filling.

  • Apricot bliss balls. Dried apricots are surprisingly high in iron. Use these as a base to make bliss balls. Bonus points if you can sneak in some nuts and seeds, too. 

As well as making a point to include plenty of iron-rich foods in your child’s diet, you can also consider supplemental iron such as Ferro-Sachets. Be sure to check with your family doctor beforehand. 

A note on vitamin C

Vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-haem iron (iron found in plants), so it can help to improve iron levels. It also helps to prevent infections and heal wounds, as well as keeping skin, bones, and connective tissue healthy. 

The good news is that most kids get plenty of vitamin C, but if your family doctor suspects your child might have a deficiency, there are easy ways to boost those levels. 

Seek to add delicious fruits and veggies to their diet such as oranges, kiwifruits, berries, capsicum, and tomatoes. Or use supplements made specifically for children, such as Vitamin C Lipo-Sachets for Kids, which come in a tasty blackcurrant flavour and quickly boost vitamin levels. 

A note on vitamin C

When it comes to getting enough nutrients, variety is key. Aim to ‘eat the rainbow’ and include ample iron-rich foods. If your little one has a strong preference for beige foods, supplementation might help picky eaters meet their nutritional needs.

Disclamer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare professional. If symptoms persist or you require specialist advice, please consult your healthcare professional.