“Eat your veggies” is a mantra generations of mothers have passed on to their progeny. We all acknowledge the importance of vegetables and fruits to our health – fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc. – yet most children and parents do very poorly in meeting their daily consumption requirements.
One in 4 “vegetables” consumed in the US today is French fries, and while potatoes in and of themselves are nutritious, the added oil and salt are part of the reason America is getting obese.
Out of the growing frustration we’ve heard from many friends, we’ve decided to create a support group called HELP! My Kid Won’t Eat Veggies (fries DON’T count!) – on Facebook. Please join us, whether you need the support or can provide some useful advice or recipes to parents in need!
And now to the list:
1. Parental example. If you don’t eat your veggies, how can you expect your child to? Even if you do, but your spouse does not, it won’t help. Unfortunately, eating habits tend to degenerate to the lowest common denominator – take out pizza and coke.
2. Start early. It’s much easier to build new healthy habits than it is to undo years of bad ones. That’s why your child should start consuming veggies and fruits from the moment she’s started solids. And while Gerber vegetable purees are a great stand-in for hectic days outside the home, the flavor is not the same as a real freshly pureed vegetable. So make your own batch for a week. Even after freezing and reheating it will still taste more like the real thing than the jarred version. And we want junior to get used to the real deal.
3. Learn to cook! Sounds trivial, but if your veggies taste like mush, kids won’t eat them. An neither will you. Luckily, many vegetables can be eaten raw in salads – you need only a knife. Some need nothing more than 15 minutes of steaming or broiling. But overcooking is a stinky problem, for example with brussel sprouts and broccoli. So take a minute to figure out the best way to prepare a vegetable. It’s also very important to note the PRESENTATION of the veg dish. Kids (and adults) eat with their eyes no less than with their mouths. Make a smiley face out of diced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and carrot sticks, and the kids will be more apt to give it a go than a tossed salad.
4. Persistence. It may take 50 sittings until your child will finally eat that side dish of broccoli. It could take you 2 years! Don’t give up. If you prepared the broccoli half decently and you eat it as well, eventually your child will take a bite, and then a few more bites. Whatever you do, don’t coerce your child to eat a particular food. That will not succeed, plus will cost you a fortune in psychologist bills for junior a few years down the road.
5. Minimize unhealthy alternatives. If your child has plentiful access to junk food throughout the day, chances are slim they’ll agree to a vegetable or fruit as a snack. At the dinner table, if they can eat endless amounts of meat and pasta elbows, they won’t feel the urge or need to fill up on the vegetables.
6. Choice. Kids love to choose. Let them choose their veggie side – steamed carrots or a tossed salad. Empowering them through a sense of control, in other matters as well, is a psychological tool that lets you get your way, while children have their say.
7. Involvement part 1. Next time at the supermarket, let your kids choose which fruits and vegetables they want to eat. Make a game of it by defining a color theme, or a shape, or a size and having them pick. Teach them how to choose the freshest, tastiest bell pepper and what to look out for in an avocado (can’t be too soft).
8. Involvement part 2. The other night, my 6 year old son helped me prepare a simple cauliflower side dish. He washed the head, dried it, divided it into smaller florets, and put them in a mixing bowl. He then helped pour in some olive oil and salt in preparation for the oven. At dinner, he devoured the cauliflower and asked for seconds. His younger sisters were all over the dish as well. We had a great discussion during the meal, not to mention the quality time during preparation. If your child can participate in the creation of the meal, there’s a good chance he will partake in it as well.
9. Watch ‘em grow. If you’ve ever taken your kids to a petting zoo, you know how much they love to connect with fauna. Now try taking them to a local farm or a community garden. Show them what vegetables look like growing on stalks. Eat peas straight out of their pod. Peel a corn husk and taste the freshest sweetest corn ever. Drive out to an orchard to pick apples off a tree, or one of those cherry/berry picking farms where kids can fill their own basket.
10. Reinforcement. Many parents complain that when their kids were young and under their sphere of influence, they ate wonderfully. But once school and friends’ homes took over, all that education was washed down with soda pop and Doritos. Try to find parents with a similar mindset to yours. Prepare healthy tasty snacks for play dates. Try to get other parents and the school involved as well. It will significantly help if the kids are actually friends too.
What do you think? Have these techniques worked for you? Not? Got more ideas? Let us know by commenting here and joining HELP! My Kid Won’t Eat Veggies (fries DON’T count!)
New! Choose a better breakfast with CerealScan™ by Fooducate