Many of us are guilty of it at some stage, but most ploys for getting kids to eat vegetables unfortunately creates lifelong negative attitudes about veggies. Deception and bribery to eat vegetables tells a child that vegetables must be truly awful, if such measures are necessary. Here are some simple and positive steps you can take to increase the chances your children or grandchildren will like at least some vegetables:
1. Try and get kids cooking! Children who help cook healthy meals are more likely to eat them. Simple things such as tearing up lettuce for a salad is an easy one. Or getting them to count the carrots as they pop them in the steamer.
2. Serve fresh vegetables whenever possible. Fresh (and some frozen) vegetables taste much better than canned ones.
3. If you’re game, take kids grocery shopping and let them choose some fresh vegetables that interest them.
4. Serve vegetables (including green salads) as a first course. Children are hungriest at the beginning of the meal. If you serve all the meal together, your child may fill up on other foods before getting to the vegetables. Instead of saying ‘IF you eat this, then can have this’, try ‘I’m still preparing this, so how about you sit up at the table and snack on these until I’m done’.
5. Cook vegetables lightly. The best methods are blanching, steaming, and stir-frying. All these methods preserve both nutrients and taste.
6. Perk up vegetables with seasonings other than salt, butter, or cheese. Experiment a little – a wide range of spices and juices can add some flavour and zest to veggies. For example, try lemon juice, pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg, basil, curry, oregano, or garlic on cooked broccoli. With steamed carrots, try parsley, cinnamon, lemon juice, allspice, nutmeg, mint, caraway seeds, dill seeds, ginger, thyme, marjoram, honey, or pepper.
7. Make a colourful plate. Be creative in presenting vegetables – naturally vibrant colours will grab a child’s eye. For example, add bits of red capsicum to green beans or broccoli to spark your child’s interest.
8. Serve lots of raw vegetables. Don’t ask kids if they want a vegetable plate, just put out a platter. Include such things as carrot and celery sticks with a low-fat dip or dressing. Some kids who won’t eat cooked carrots, for example, will gobble them down raw.
9. Gardening is fun! Like cooking, it’s fun to plants vegetables in a backyard garden or large pot and then watch them grow. Most kids enjoy gardening, harvesting…and eating.
Some other little tips:
1. Eat with your kids at the table as much as possible.
2. Space meals 2.5 – 3 hours apart (with NOTHING in between – no matter how small you think it is).
3. Set an example, and remember that just because you don’t like mushrooms, it doesn’t mean your child won’t either!
4. You are not a short order cook, and your kitchen is a not a restaurant.
5. Stay strong!