There is a fierce battle happening right now and the battle is bigger than you think. On one side you have well-intended parents, and on the other are strong-willed children…who refuse to eat their vegetables. Some parents plot and plan but, nothing seems to work. So in mere frustration, they give up.
While getting children to eat veggies is not necessarily easy, it is easier than coping with the ramifications that can ensue after a lifetime trodden by poor eating habits. In essence, by investing in your child’s dietary health today you are investing in a brighter and more healthful tomorrow.
Here are seven tips for getting kids to eat more veggies more often.
- Start early
- Lead by example
- Offer praise not bribes
- Serve veggies in non-traditional ways
- Offer choices
- Grow Your Own
- Steam, Roast or Broil, Don’t Boil
If you want to have good “veggie” eaters, you have to train those palates from young. Making baby food at home is a great start, but it doesn’t end there. Serve vegetables in one form or the other everyday to get kids in the habit seeing and eating them.
The whole “do as I say not as I do” approach, is not going to work here. Include vegetables as part of your meals as well. Let your kids see vegetables on your plate in whole form. Adding vegetables to a casserole is great but the veggies get lost and kids need visual cues. So go ahead and include a salad or steamed vegetables on the side as well.
When children are told that “if you eat your vegetables you will get (insert treat here)”, it sets the tone that vegetables are not good but, ice cream or cake…is. Not only that, but if you start bribing them to eat their vegetables now, they will always want sweets after dinner and you may find that you have to start upgrading the bribe to suit their tastes. Two marshmallows may seem fine to bribe a toddler today but eventually, they will outgrow that bribe and seek out bigger and more highly caloric treats after meals.
Add that up by 5-7 days a week and you could have a problem on your hands. If you have to use incentives, opt for non-food incentives instead like going to the playground, or an extra story at bedtime.
Fresh blended juices, homemade ice pops and including vegetables as part of bread, cake and meatloaf mixes is a great way to get extra veggies in. If you use this approach, make sure that you still are consistent in offering vegetables in their whole, recognizable forms.
Kids love choices. Carrots or peas? Broccoli or spinach? Kale or brussel sprouts? Need I say more?
Plant a spring garden. Get the kids involved in what is planted and see what happens when it’s time to harvest. They may be more apt to trying something new.
Boiling vegetables kills the taste and nutrition. Boiling potatoes for potato salad are one of the exceptions…although you could make a baked potato salad. Potatoes are more of a starch than they are a vegetables anyway. So think outside of potatoes when trying to increase your family’s veggie intake.
Steaming, roasting and broiling however, retains flavor and nutrition. Roasting and broiling even brings out the natural sugars in the vegetables sometimes adding a sweet taste. I am not much of a beets fan but I have roasted them in the oven and they have a whole new flavor. You can try roasting pretty much any vegetable. I guarantee it will taste totally different.
What tips do you have for getting your kids to eat their vegetables? Share in the comments.