By Kristin Louis
We all know the vital role veggies play in our health. Many of us grew up with parents who had to coax us to eat our greens,. Now it’s our turn to get our offspring to eat their vegetables. Do we coerce them with use a barter and reward system or sneak veggies into their food?
Maybe it’s time we stop making vegetables the enemy. How about inspiring our children to appreciate and enjoy vegetables? While this may sound like “mission impossible,” read on for eight tips to get your children onboard (and maybe even excited!) about vegetables.
- Be a good role model. If your children see you enjoying vegetables, it will be much easier to convince them of their yumminess. Always offer at least one vegetable with meals. If your children only see you consuming unhealthy meals, how can you expect them to be different?
- Research has found that children who initially do not like a vegetable will grow to like it after being exposed to it at least six times. This supports using a “one bite rule,” requiring your child to eat at least one mouthful of a vegetable at meal time. Hopefully after six exposures, your child will have a change of heart.
- Explain to your children what an awesome thing vegetables are! Dr. William Sears who has been advising parents on how to raise healthy children for over 50 years says, “You can reinforce your child’s love of healthy foods by calling them ‘grow foods.’” Let your children know that not only will eating vegetables help them grow, but it will feed their brains and bodies so they can learn about the things that interest them and play the games they love.
- Have a daily strategy. When your children are especially hungry, that’s the time to bring on the veggies. Most kids are hungry when they come home from school. That’s the time to have all kinds of delicious veggies ready to eat, along with their favorite dips. Also try serving dinner 15 to 30 minutes later than usual, but offer a “first course” of vegetables to munch on at the regular time.
- Let your children have their very own section of your garden. Teach them how to plant and harvest their own veggies. Visit local farmers markets, talk with the farmers, and pick out interesting and unusual veggies. Make it a game/adventure by asking them to find the craziest-looking vegetable or the biggest bunch of broccoli. Ask them to pick out the vegetable you’ll prepare together that night for dinner. Kids are more invested in a meal if they help with its preparation.
- Preparation and presentation are everything! Use the No. 1 cooking technique that kids love — roasting veggies with olive oil and salt. Stuff celery with peanut butter or cream cheese, refer to broccoli florets as mini trees and sliced peppers as pirate ships. Create faces or abstract art by setting out all kinds of shapes, colors and textures — from green snap peas to slices of cooked red beets. Use olives for eyes, a baby carrot as a nose, a red pepper slice for a mouth. Chances are, your child will not be able to resist nibbling on their artwork.
- Invest in a juicer. Young children especially love feeding vegetables into a juicer. (You’ll probably want to add an apple or orange to sweeten the taste of kale, etc.) Make it fun by starting your own “Juice Journal” for your child to decorate. Together, you’ll record the contents of your creations, name each juice you make, give it a score and write the date you make it.
- Make smoothies — not as a way to “sneak” in veggies, but simply as a tasty way to increase your child’s veggie intake.
The bottom line is to make the whole world of vegetables a positive one. Don’t get too worked up over what your children eat at this point. Expose them to a wide variety of veggies, have them eat one mouthful per meal and leave it at that. Make mealtime enjoyable and tasty, and your positive attitude will rub off when you least expect it.