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Share your tips and tricks for harmonious family meals - £200 voucher to be won

89 replies

EllieSmumsnet · 22/02/2024 09:51

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We all know how busy family life can get, so mealtimes can be a great way to come together, bond as a family and share great food, but it isn’t always easy; picky-eaters, wasted food and a lack of time to think of and prepare healthy meals that the whole family will enjoy. How often does your family eat together? What are your best tips and tricks for happy, healthy family meals and empty plates? 

  • Share your tips and tricks below for happy and harmonious meal times
  • One lucky MNer will win a £200 voucher for a store of their choice.


Here’s what Veg Power has to say:

“Half of mums tell us that they struggle to get their kids to eat more vegetables, with many admitting that they have given up trying. Our mission at Veg Power is to get kids excited about vegetables and to help parents and carers serve up those vegetables with confidence. Families enjoying positive meal times together is an essential part of that and sadly in many homes that's a challenge. Although we're supported by an amazing panel of nutritionists, psychologist and chefs we find that the best ideas often come from parents. We'd love to hear your views.”
OP posts:
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littlecottonbud · 22/02/2024 10:07

For us it's a cottage or shephards pie, with blitzed vegetables (yellow and red pepper and carrot) it really adds to the flavour, and they are getting some vegetables into their system, the veg can be chopped once they get used to eating the pie - and make home made gravy again with pureed vegetables and a stock cube

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youareonlyhereonce · 22/02/2024 10:21

I would make a sourdoough pizza with lots of cheese, mushrooms, peppers and tomato sauce, tastes so much nicer than supermarkets, and they can choose to try the veg, or take some off - they can even join in making the pizza's and are more likely to eat more if they have been involved in the food prep.

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flyingbytheseatofmyrants · 22/02/2024 13:12

I used to try and hide veg in sauces by blitzing them beyond recognition, but the turning point for us was when I decided to 'deconstruct' meals and let them choose what they want on their plates! So instead of hiding carrots in the sauce so they'd get their veg, I prepare them separately and they are then happier to try lots of things. It also means I don't stress about them going hungry as eg they can still eat the pasta even if they don't like the sauce (which I serve up separately). They also really enjoy helping me to prepare the veg and so when it gets put on the table they are more excited to try new foods because they helped make them. We now have far fewer tears about trying new foods and I am much less stressed about meal times!

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lovemyflipflops · 22/02/2024 13:37

Giving them a set routine and a time check allows them to build the independence to come to the dinner table without it being a shock and dragging them away from the TV or playing. They will come with the mindset of this is our routine and not be a drama which means they won't sit still to eat.

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ohdannyboy · 22/02/2024 13:39

Children follow by example, and if they see parents eating proper heathy balanced meals, they are more likely to choose decent healthy food for themselves as they get older. So when they are having weaning food, sit them at the table whilst you eat a healthy meal with colourful vegetables.
That’s not to say treats can’t happen though, feel free to indulge every now and again, but be sure to remind the children that it’s a treat or a luxury and shouldn’t be eaten every day.

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HobNobAddict · 22/02/2024 13:52

Buy 500grams of mince and add some beef stock cubes, LOTS of diced and pureed vegetables to bulk up and add to the taste and texture, then from this make a lasagne, a mild chill with some pittas, cottage pie and stuffed jacket potatoes with grated cheese on top - it's a winner winner they'll eat dinner

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ReallyBigPlans · 22/02/2024 15:25

Patience and perseverance with trying new things, think about what each child needs rather than what you want. Play table games (family flip quiz is a favourite here).

One child here uses a fidget toy at the table, one tries things better if we explain how they taste / why they’re good / whose favourite they are. Two are better with a “just try it”.

It’s ok if meals are served deconstructed for a while to get used to new ingredients. It’s fine if the child takes an hour to eat as long as they’re happy. The overall goal is a healthy food relationship and a range of foods to enjoy.

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Beach11 · 22/02/2024 18:43

Serve a range of veg or salad with every meal and fruit for snacks. Give choices of veg/salad but always have to eat 3 different.
We have a set routine & always eat sat at the table.
If seconds are wanted, they have to have extra veg/salad with it also.
Children help chop/perl veg

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sharond101 · 23/02/2024 14:05

We have fussy eaters, one who refuses all veg except baked beans and pureed soup so he has pureed soup or baked beans. He is encouraged to try other vegetables but I am done with me and him getting stressed or upset so if he tries it thats enough.

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DinkyDaffodil · 23/02/2024 14:15

My tips are to get a plate similar to this (from Etsy) with the dinner on, if they don't like things touching, then even better, worked for my 3 year old, now he eats from a toddler plate - still segmented, but we are getting there.

Share your tips and tricks for harmonious family meals - £200 voucher to be won
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DenDenDenise · 23/02/2024 15:57

My tips are to focus on what they will eat, if weaning has been really slow and patent, with different foods being offered, sliced yellow and red peppers, cucumber sticks, and dips with varying flavours, meal times can become based on weaning likes, with new foods added, and if they don't like, try it in a different meal. Let them eat with you and watch you eat healthy meals, play music as a distraction, and don't make them eat if they cannot. If they are hungry they will eat.

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Penguinsa · 24/02/2024 10:58

I have an asd child and have done various tactics over the years - the carrots and peas in cottage pie, the pea eating competitions with his sister, fruit juices and making smiley faces with the veg and also leaving a fruit bowl between the sofa and the TV. He's now 17 and eats enough fruit and veg, he even ate 3 limes the other day.

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JacCharlton · 24/02/2024 11:20

We have a serving plate in the centre of the table to accompany our meals so they can select what amount of vegetables they have, we have cheesy leeks, chantaonay carrots, sweetcorn and petite pois, with the meals, I must say this has been the most successful way (other than hiding the pureed veg in our meals) they feel in charge of what they choose, and of they pick 3 veg we add a sticker to their sticker chart in the hallway.

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voyager50 · 24/02/2024 16:21

Get the children involved in growing, preparing and cooking fruit and veg from a young age and they will be much more likely to eat them - start with vegetables such as peppers on pizza, chopping veg for a mild vegetable curry or growing tomatoes or carrots if you have a garden.

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pushchairprincess · 25/02/2024 19:32

For gentle palletts legumes such as beans and chickpeas are a great and inexpensive veggie staple, packed with proteins and easy to incorporate into family meals. I like making humous, butter bean pastes and dips using beetroot that are easy for kids to dip into with bread or veggie sticks like cucumbers and carrots.

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VaseandCandle · 25/02/2024 21:13

Empty plates aren't my priority. I would get that if I cooked pasta pesto or fish and chips every night. I try to offer a wide variety of flavours and hope that a bit of it gets tried. On weekdays, time is crucial, so I plan ahead and prep as much as possible.

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EasyPeelersAreNotTheOnlyFruit · 25/02/2024 23:09

Just don't stress or comment on anything - my job is to provide a variety of healthy food, and it's my kids' jobs to decide what they eat from that and how much. So everything is self serve, and separate as much as possible, so everyone has control of their own plate and there's no arguments!

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CassandraWebb · 26/02/2024 01:42

Lots of options. Modelling healthy eating etc.

I could never understand why my son refused all raw fruit and veg. Eventually we found out he has oral allergy syndrome (sometimes known as food pollen syndrome) so I am glad we went down the gentle encouragement route, as most raw fruit /veg makes him feel quite unwell (sore , itchy mouth etc)

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Ilostmyhalo · 26/02/2024 09:37

Help them plan the menu, based on what they will eat and what they will try to eat, and if you can involve them in the food prep - I found mine ate better if they helped with the chopping of the peppers for a stir fry, and making the sauce with grating ginger and measuring soy.

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ButterOllocks · 26/02/2024 09:39

Having a very strong-willed little girl, I’ve come to realise that letting her choose what she wants to eat and put on her plate encourages her to be more adventurous. Getting a plate with different compartments allows you to separate foods and let your kids try three or four different options at mealtimes. If the plates are fun and colourful, that’s an added bonus!

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jacqui5366 · 26/02/2024 09:42

Puréed fruit and vegetables are just the best way to introduce new flavours and get their fruit and veg intake up. I’ve found that these purées can be incorporated into some pancakes - making a frittata type meal. Greens like spinach and courgette can be used this way too, and you could always add sweet potato for extra flavour.

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prawncocktailcrispss · 26/02/2024 09:56

I tried serving small portions of vegetables in colourful cupcake cases on their plate, and it worked really well, mashed carrot, sweetcorn and cheesy leeks, then smaller cubes of cooked carrot.

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Hoolahoophop · 26/02/2024 13:53

Veg as a side with everything. My kids LOVE peanut butter and hummus, so they get raw veg sticks with most meals and something to dip them in. As well as a variation of what we are eating. So curries minus the spice, or a poke bowel with basics that they like. We have a LOT of sharing platters so they can pick what they like and try other bits always with a carb base and at least one plain protein that they enjoy.

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lillypopdaisyduke · 26/02/2024 15:12

Make a smiley face out of veg - arranged to look cute, or a dinosaur mashed potato with carrot humps and 2 carrot eye as an accompaniment.

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DinkyDaffodil · 26/02/2024 15:14

Get the airfryer to use, boiled carrots taste completely different to roasted ones so I found par boiling then airfrying vegetables that bring out tastes that my DC's won’t screw their noses up at. Roasting vegetables caramelises any sugars in them, giving them a sweeter flavour that kids will enjoy more; parsnips and sweet potato are also great when roasted in the oven.

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