Young chef today, healthy adult tomorrow!

Dr.ª Marina Augusto Estevão

“My son doesn't want to eat vegetables or fruit, he only likes bananas!” This is one of the complaints we hear countless times from parents desperate about their children's bad eating habits. 


Instilling healthy eating habits in children is not always an easy task, however this should be a priority and part of the education and development of the child, due to the important  consequences it might have on their health. A well-nourished child will have a normal   physical and cognitive growth and will develop into a healthy adult. Setting an example is the key, as children copy and adopt their parents' eating habits. However it is not always enough, we have parents eating soup and vegetables while their children just eat meat and pasta.

We know that 8-11 attempts may be necessary for the child to like some types of food and we also know that a calm and peaceful environment is also important.

Studies indicate that children who participate in the preparation and cooking of meals are healthier eaters.  In addition, it promotes unity in the family and improves the child's cognitive development and may even lead to better results at school. Don't worry about the mess in the kitchen, the important thing is getting the child involved.

Turn meal preparation into fun time and challenge your child to create funny shapes and patterns; create happy faces, use spaghetti for hair, animals, hearts, stars, make trees with broccoli and cauliflower, make rainbows with different types of fruit...

Take advantage of these moments to explain the importance of a balanced diet that also includes vegetables, fruit and whole-wheat cereals.

The creativity of the dish presented for the child is important, as is also the way it is prepared and cooked. Using natural spices and herbs instead of excess salt, results in a healthier dish and will allow the child to try different flavors. One can use parsley, mint, oregano, saffron, paprika, nutmeg, thyme, always in small quantities so as not to alter the taste of the food itself, permitting the child to perceive the different tastes.

Here are some recipes that, with a creative presentation and the right seasoning, can help the little ones to get started with those “more difficult foods”. 



  • 1 small broccoli
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup peas; 2 carrots
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes  ( tomato puree can be added )
  • ¼ red pepper
  • Bay lead
  • salt, basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, parsley, chives 


  • Cook broccoli, chop coarsely and reserve;
  • In a pot cook the chopped onion and garlic with a little olive oil, add bay leaf the chopped tomatoes, chopped pepper, grated carrot and the peas. Season with salt, basil, oregano, thyme and paprika, mix well and let it cook;
  • Finally add the broccoli and mix well. Add parsley and chopped chives to taste;
  • Serve with spaghetti seasoned with oregano. 




  • 1 cup cooked chick peas
  • 1 cup cooked green peas
  • 1 medium size cooked sweet potato
  • ½ small onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 6 tablespoons flour (whole-wheat or brown rice or oats)
  • Season with salt, saffron, paprika, basil.
  • Olive Oil

For the spinach - (1 medium size bunch of spinach, ½ onion, 1 clove garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil) 


  • Place the sweet potato, cheek peas and the green peas in a pot with the onion, parsley, chive, salt, saffron, paprika, basil, olive oil and mash. Add flour mix well until it’s  possible to shape into small balls;
    With humid hands shape into small balls, place in a tray and  oven bake at 200°C  for approximately ½ hour;
    For the spinach. Cook the chopped onion and garlic in a frying pan with a little olive oil, add the spinach leaves season with salt and pepper. Mix until cooked and puree.



  • Ice cream molds
  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • Chopped fruit (kiwi, blueberries, mango, strawberries)
  • Add fruit to the orange juice pour into moulds and freeze.