In my last article I shared my “secret” about hiding veggies in foods by chopping them finely and mixing them in. While this is a great way to add an extra veggie boost, the ultimate goal is to teach your kids healthy eating habits, and part of that is teaching them to enjoy vegetables.
If that seems like it is easier said than done to you, take heart; with some effort it is possible. Just like I shared in my previous post, “Train Your Body To Crave Healthy Foods With 6 Easy Steps”, you can actually help your children learn to enjoy vegetables.
First of all, keep in mind that in order for a child to develop a taste for a new food, they have to try it somewhere between 15-20 times. That is a lot of servings of green beans, and it would be very tempting to give up around serving 10, but don’t do it… press on and don’t be easily discouraged! With that in mind, here are some methods that I employ.
- Tell your child, “You have to eat at least 4” (or any other number you wish to use). Sometimes we go by the age of the child. They think that is kind of fun. Occasionally, I will even put more than their number on their plate so they feel like they aren’t having to eat it all. Tricky, I know. This has worked for me, however, to the point where 2 of my children who were avowed broccoli haters now enjoy eating it.
- Tell your children that they may not have their fruit (or dessert or bread or anything else they really want) until they eat their vegetables. Once again, the more they eat of a food, the more likely they are to want to eat it. If there is some incentive to eat the foods they don’t care for as much first, they usually eat it.
- Include vegetables in the dishes that you cook. I talked about some sneaky ways to do this in my last post, “Quick Tips: How To Get Kids To Eat Their Veggies”, but I also like to find more overt ways to do this, for instance, I mix peas in my tuna noodle casserole or with mac and cheese.
- Let your child pick which vegetable they would like. I have four children with varying tastes, but occasionally I will offer them 2 or 3 different vegetable choices and let them pick which one they want to eat. For example, I have pea pods, bell peppers, carrots or spinach leaves (one of my children, bless her heart, likes to eat raw spinach), which would you like with your lunch? We both get something that way; they get a choice and I get my children to eat healthy food.
- Let them dip their veggie sticks! My kiddos are far more ready to eat lots of veggies, and a greater variety, when I let them dip them in something, usually Ranch dressing. I have found a dressing that I feel comfortable with that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup or other things that are objectionable to me, but that tastes great from Bolthouse Farms. Some of our dipping vegetables are carrots, celery, broccoli, pea pods, cucumber slices and bell pepper strips. If it is not something you can dip, try preparing it in a way they enjoy eating it. One of our family’s favorites is steamed broccoli with a little butter, salt and parmesan cheese on top. My kids (and husband) truly enjoy eating it.
- Involve them in the preparation. My children, from my 8 year old on down to my 2 year old LOVE to cook with me. It is interesting to see how the older ones are aware of being healthy and non-healthy and how they really think about it when we cook. They are much more likely to be concerned about dinner being healthy if they help me make it. We have set the parameter that we need to have vegetables at lunch and dinner for sure, and they enjoy helping to think about what we should have.
- Always make vegetables available for your kids. Sometimes this takes some effort as veggies can require preparation and it is easier to grab something pre-packaged, but I make sure that I have some sort of vegetable on the table with most meals. My fall back is carrot sticks. I cut them up and keep them in the fridge so I can pull them out whenever I need to. Some other great options are pea pods, bell peppers, celery, cucumbers and mixed baby greens.
- Finally, the most important way to get your kids to eat veggies is to eat them yourself. Eating lots of vegetables as part of your family’s lifestyle will produce kids who are vegetable eaters; likewise, if you don’t incorporate them into your own diet, you can’t really expect that your kids will want to eat them.
If you have some tips on how you get your kids to eat their vegetables, please share! Happy and healthy eating, everyone!