Do you want your children to eat their vegetables? Here are my top tips
Mary Brophy | | 0 comments
Many kids are reluctant to eat vegetables, just like one of my girls used to be. From firsthand experience, I know that bribes, pleas, and threats most often won’t work. Getting your child to try “just one bite” of any veggie on their plate can often feel like a major challenge.
So what does work? Based on my experiences with my own children, and time I have spent in the kitchen preparing meals for them, I’ve developed some strategies that you can use to make vegetables an enjoyable part of your child’s diet. Here they are:
Tip #1: introduce your child to vegetables early
Begin at an early age offering your baby vegetables. By the way, those were the first foods I gave my girls when they started eating solids. When a child grows up with vegetables being a big part of their diet they grow more familiar with those new flavors.
I recommend beginning with mild or sweeter tasting vegetables, such as peas, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes or avocado. Simply steam these vegetables (except avocado) and offer them in pieces or mashed.
When offering in pieces, pay attention to the appropriate cut and size based on their age. When your child is accustomed to these mild flavors you can move on to stronger flavors such as broccoli, cauliflower and beets.
Don’t be afraid to add some mild herbs or spices (basil, cinnamon) or yogurt to make them more palatable to your child.
Tip #2: address hunger with vegetables
Has your child just arrived home from school and is hungry? Provide them with a plate of chopped-up raw veggies to snack on while you ask them about their day at school. At mealtime offer your child vegetables first before you serve up their protein and carbohydrate.
Here’s a tip: don’t make a big deal about it or put too much emphasis on the fact the snack is a vegetable.
Tip #3: make vegetables fun
Just so you know, they don’t have to be boring. Here’s what you can do:
- pack lunches with vegetables cut into fun shapes to make them more exciting. Cucumbers can be stamped into stars, and bell peppers into hearts;
- give children a range of textures and colours. For instance, use skewers to make colourful combos of various fruits and veggies. Don’t be afraid to combine fruits with veggies. They go well with greek yogurt as a dip;
- smoothies are so versatile and popular in our house. We often add mild or sweeter tasting vegetables such as avocado, spinach, beets, and carrots to our fruit smoothies;
- take one vegetable and prepare it in different ways. No children love steamed vegetables but they might try it grated or raw. Other ideas: chop finely, roast, steam, or mash your veggies. Go crazy. It’s just about thinking outside the box.
Tip #4: get them involved in the kitchen
I’m the first one to admit that it’s sometimes a hassle to allow your child to participate in meal preparation. It’s more time-consuming and WAY messier. Try picking a day when you have extra energy or time in your schedule. Set them up with simple tasks such as stirring, washing vegetables, spinning salad leaves, or breaking apart broccoli florets.
Including them in the meal prep gives a child a sense of accomplishment, confidence and independence. They are more likely to enjoy the meal they helped create… or at least more willing to try it. Let’s be honest, children won’t always eat everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Bonus: lessons in the kitchen give your child life skills that will prove useful when they leave home so it’s not always just toast and take out.
Tip #5: let them choose
Once a week each of my children chooses a (healthy) favorite meal for the family. I also let my child select their vegetables from the grocery store. When home she helps me to prepare our meal. Some days we will browse through a cookbook for inspiration but other days we just prepare items simply. Steamed cauliflower, green beans with a little butter or chopped up bell peppers with greek yogurt for a dip.
Remember to keep the choices simple. Don’t overwhelm them with options. Most young children can’t cope with more than 2 or 3 items to choose from.
Tip #6: lead by example
Children learn by example. “Eat your vegetables,” has been said by parents for generations. A study from nutrition experts suggests that parents would be better off saving their breath and eating by example with a plateful of their own healthy foods.
If you expect your child to eat healthily, you may have to work on your own eating habits. In a forgiving way, take an honest look at what you and how you eat and your own relationship with food.
When your child sees you enjoying a healthy meal and trying new foods, they will be more inclined to follow suit. Focus on making mealtime a positive and relaxed experience for your child.
Children learn to eat different foods, and getting familiar with eating vegetables is no different than developing a new skill, like riding a bike. It takes practice and patience in a low-pressure environment. Follow these tips and I’m sure your child will learn to love their vegetables!
Do you have tips that weren’t mentioned above to help your child eat vegetables? Share with us in the comments below!