Hi, I am Gemma and I run www.familyfeed.co.uk a platform that explores family life through the lens of food, work and wellbeing. Encouraging healthy eating habits in young children is important for their overall development and well-being. One effective way to promote nutritious snacking is through a free flow fruit bowl. It sounds a bit basic doesn’t it? The idea that an easy to reach fruit bowl could change your child’s eating habits – it sounds too good to be true. It’s easy to be to miss the bigger picture and the subtle influence a fruit bowl can have with young children.
For me, in parenthood, there are few absolutes - mostly I am looking for balance. I parent with a mindset that things change daily and I am open to flexing and using my intuition in the moment. I have simple tools that can be adapted on the fly and this is one of them.
Just over a year ago we introduced a free flowing, easy to reach fruit bowl for our children to help themselves to (without asking for permission) and for us it’s had a huge benefit with minimal effort. I will note we have always had a well stocked fruit bowl but it wasn’t free flowing/help yourself.
Free flow fruit
A free flowing fruit bowl was an opportunity to disrupt my belief system when it came to feeding our children. We are told as parents that we should decide what, how and when our children eat. How many of us feel constantly nagged for snacks, and as the gatekeeper of the food, it sets us all in roles that can cause conflict and battles. Free flow fruit is a mechanism for creating connection, trust, independence and heathy eating for our children. Not just now but way into their future. In this blog, I want to share how and why we have free flowing fruits for our 3 and 5 year olds.
Here’s how we do it
1. We have bowls of fruit, washed and at a height the children can reach when they want a snack. Having the bowl/s somewhere they can see it important too. Often what they can see or reach is what they will ask for.
2. They don’t have to ask for fruit, they can help themselves. We tend not to say no to fruit. Sometimes we suggest waiting until after dinner or I might move the bowl out of sight if I need to. On the whole we are fairly relaxed about when our children eat fruit.
3. We don’t ban processed or sugary foods. I think balance is important and I know our children have a nutritionally balanced diet overall so we don’t need to ban foods that are less nutritionally dense. Since having easy access to a fruit bowl, our children ask for other snacks less often. We do however have those snacks out of sight and reach, making them harder to get to.
4. We keep the bowl filled up with their favourites: apples, pears and bananas. It’s often cheaper to do this than it is to buy processed snacks. You can buy 6 apples in Sainsburys for 99p at the moment. I keep strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and grapes etc in the fridge. These are more expensive but give us a bit of variety.
5. We are on the same page. It’s important for all the grownups to be on the same page so that everyone has the same expectations. If someone still believes that children can’t have autonomy over when they are hungry then there may be conflict and confusion instead of trust and connection.
Here’s why we do it
Promoting Healthy Choices
An easy-to-reach fruit bowl offers numerous advantages when it comes to fostering healthy choices among young children. Placing a colourful assortment of fruits within their reach makes them more likely to opt for a piece of fruit as a snack. When healthy options are readily available, children are less inclined to reach for less nutritious alternatives like sugary snacks or processed foods. In fact if these snacks are out of sight, they are more likely to be out of mind.
Developing Independence and Autonomy
Having a fruit bowl within easy reach allows young children to take charge of their own snacking choices. By encouraging autonomy and independence, children can learn to make their own decisions about healthy eating. They gain a sense of accomplishment and responsibility when they can pick and choose their favorite fruits from the bowl - this can empower them to develop lifelong healthy eating habits.
Enhancing Nutritional Intake
A well-stocked fruit bowl offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber essential for the growth and development of young children. By making fruits easily accessible, we can ensure that children have a higher chance of meeting their recommended daily fruit intake. Regular fruit consumption contributes to improved digestion, strengthened immune systems, and overall better health. The diverse range of nutrients present in fruits also aids in brain development, cognition, and concentration.
Encouraging Sensory Exploration
A free flow fruit bowl provides an opportunity for young children to engage in sensory exploration. Through touch, sight, smell, and taste, children can discover various fruit textures, colours, and flavours. This multi sensory experience stimulates their senses, enhances cognitive development, and cultivates an appreciation for different fruits. By engaging their senses, children develop a positive relationship with food, which can help prevent picky eating habits and foster a lifelong love for healthy eating.
Instilling Lifelong Habits
The habits children develop during their early years tend to persist into adulthood. By providing an easy-to-reach fruit bowl, parents help introduce healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. Early exposure to fruits and making them easily accessible creates a positive association with these nutritious options, increasing the likelihood of children continuing to choose fruits as they grow older. These habits not only benefit their physical health but also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as obesity and heart disease, later in life.
So is it too good to be true? Well, I guess that’s dependent on your expectations and also your family. All children are different and what works for us might not work for you. But there has been a subtle shift in our house. A year ago I felt like I was dishing out processed snacks all the time and I felt conflicted every time they asked for something else. Since making the decision to have a free flow fruit bowl there has been more harmony around snacks. It’s encouraged independence in other areas too, the kids love fruit and that makes life easier for us all. If you have any questions about our free flow fruit journey, I would love to hear from you email@example.com
Family Feed is born from the idea that family life can be easier and more enjoyable. We explore family life through the lens of food, work and well being. We aim to connect our audience with content that inspires family life and helps parents to focus on creating a happy and healthy family lifestyle. We believe that every family is different and we want to encourage more families to take adventures and connect with each other in their day to day lives. Our quarterly newsletter welcomes guest authors, shares family friendly recipes and interviews and articles about family lifestyle. You can subscribe for free here