Kids are notorious for being difficult to convince when it comes time to eat their vegetables, especially if it’s a new food or combination they haven’t tried before.
This kind of stalemate can make mealtimes a chore and lead to increased stress levels for everyone. To combat this, the next time you are about to fight a dinnertime battle, consider these tips to ensure your kids are eating a wide variety of foods and enjoying all the nutrients they need in their diet, but without the angst.
MAKE FOOD FUN
Making food fun is a great way to capture the interest and imagination of your child. Arrange the food on the plate in a smiley face, or prepare food in a way that’s fun to eat, such as peeling apples in a swirl or sticking broccoli florets into mashed potato like a mini ‘forest’. Kids love the idea of having a treat, so use a particular fruit or vegetable they love done in a different way as their ‘treat’. Dip strawberries in yoghurt and store in the freezer for an after dinner dessert or try mixing berry-flavoured Olive Leaf Extract with blackcurrant juice for a healthy drink kids will enjoy. Doing a search on Instagram or YouTube can provide some great ideas to get you started.
GET THEM INVOLVED
Getting kids involved in the preparation of food can give them a sense of pride and may make them more cooperative when it’s time for dinner. Researchers at Columbia University found that kids were more likely to eat vegetables and whole grains if they were involved in the process of cooking the foods themselves, so write a list and give it to your children at the supermarket, allowing them to pick out the vegetable and fruit while teaching them what to look for in a good piece and how much they need for each dish. When you are ready to cook, get them to help you wash, peel and prepare them in the kitchen.Starting a herb garden or veggie patch is another way to give kids a sense of ownership of their food and allow them to see the entire growing and harvesting process to get them excited about what they are eating.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Studies show that children’s eating habits are primarily influenced by the parent’s eating habits, attitudes and beliefs. This means that if you aren’t eating much from the fruit and vegetable section, neither will they. Set a good example and let them see you eating all of your vegetables with a positive attitude, so this becomes a normal part of every meal.
KEEP TRYING NEW FOODS
Kids are curious by nature, so encourage them to try new foods at home and when you’re eating out. Use the introduction of a new fruit or vegetable (or a new combination) as an opportunity to talk about where it came from and how it has been cooked. They often need to see a parent or other role model trying a new food before trying it themselves, so consider giving them a small portion of your meal so they can start to experience new flavours and textures. Children may need to be served a new food a number of times before they try it, and then taste it 10 times or more before they actually like it, so be patient and keep trying.
USE FAMILIAR FLAVORS
Kids naturally like sweet and salty foods, so you may like to add natural sauces and flavourings to vegetables, such as melted cheese or fresh tomato sauce, to make them more appealing. Drop a dollop of Manuka Honey in for some sweetness. Offering a new food amongst familiar and enjoyed foods may also encourage kids to try something new.
What are your tips and tricks for getting kids to eat their vegetables?