I hear a lot of my girlfriends talking about how their children won’t eat vegetables. Since this seems to be an epidemic and I’ve given this advice to numerous friends lately, I thought I would share some of my suggestions here! If you’ve got a couple of veggie lovin’ kidlets I hope you’ll weigh in too! I’d love for this to turn into a great “go -to” for all those moms out there trying to get their kids to eat their vegetables!
:: It’s All in the Presentation
First, if you are starting with a little one it is SO important to present new and varied vegetables very young. Don’t be afraid to feed you new little eater with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Of course you’ll want to talk to your pediatrician about an allergies and their opinions, but aside from that you can feed you’re little darling any and all veggies. One of Judah’s favorites is still avocado!
Have an opinionated toddler (or older child)? Sometimes it is all about the presentation. I have even found this to be true with adults who are self proclaimed “veggie haters.” They think they don’t like a certain vegetable because they didn’t like it prepared a certain way (the only way they have ever tried it). This was the case with my husband. When we married he didn’t like any green vegetables aside from green beans. But, when I cooked them in new ways, such as sauteing them with garlic, he found that he liked a lot of things he thought he didn’t. He didn’t like cabbage boiled, but loves it sauteed with garlic. He didn’t like Brussel sprouts, but loves them shredded and sauteed with garlic and chicken broth. The same is true for many children. The same thing goes with broccoli, maybe they don’t like it steamed, but try it with a little cheese sauce. Sometimes it is all about finding the right presentation.
:: Get Creative
Find new ways to add more (or some) veggies to old standby recipes. Do you kinds love pasta? Add cooked, sliced zucchini or spinach to lasagna. Add broccoli or peas to macaroni and cheese. Do your kids love muffins? Make zucchini muffins. Do you have a pizza lover? Add veggies to the line-up.
Soup is an easy one to add vegetables to. Besides the obvious vegetable soup or carrots in chicken noodle soup, you can wilt a bag of fresh spinach into homemade chicken noodle and it is delicious! You can also puree vegetables to add to soup (and make a nice thick broth). My son loves pureed asparagus soup – it has a velvety, buttery texture.
:: Get ‘Em Involved
One of the best ways to get them to try something new is to let them pick it out! Take your children to the grocery store or farmers market once a week and talk about all the vegetables you see. Let them pick out one that they want to have that week (an old favorite or something totally new)! You can also play the rainbow game and have them find one vegetable for each of the colors. Or pick a new color each week.
Once you’re home, have them help you in the kitchen. Letting children help out in the kitchen is a sure-fire way to get them interested in trying something new. Be sure to announce at dinner how they prepared it so that they can revel in the pride or how good the new veggie tastes.
:: Increase the Fun Factor
Kids LOVE to dip things. Take a look at your meal. Is there anything that can be dipped? Besides the obvious carrots with ranch dressing, you can also dip steamed veggies in melted cheese dip or celery with peanut butter.
Rename your veggies. I know this one sounds crazy, but a new Cornell University study shows that giving vegetables catchy new names – like X-Ray Vision Carrots and Tomato Bursts – left preschoolers asking for more. Think about what your child is in to right now and name them accordingly. Have a dinosaur lover? Broccoli can be Brontosaurus trees. How many of you were told to eat your spinach because it will make you strong like Popeye!?
:: Finally, don’t give up.
It can take 10 to 15 tries before a child will decide he likes a new vegetable. If he says he doesn’t like it the first five times you make it, keep trying. Don’t force them to eat all of their vegetables or to clear their plate. It is appropriate to ask them to take a “no thank you bite.” This means you require them to take at least one bite and if at that point they didn’t like it they can say “no thank you” and not have any more.
Serve up a new vegetable with something more familiar and friendly. Trying new things doesn’t seem as scary when you recognize the other things on your plate and you know you can always go back to them.
You are not a short order cook. Just because your child decides not to eat what you prepared for dinner doesn’t mean you should feel inclined to cook them a separate meal or to provide a substitute. They will not starve to death. They’ll learn that what you prepare is what is for dinner.
And, lastly set a good example. You can’t expect your child to eat healthy or try new things if they don’t see you reciprocating. What you do is even more important than what you say. So, make sure your children see you trying new things (and enjoying them) and be sure to EAT YOUR VEGETABLES.