Do you struggle with getting your kids to eat vegetables? You are not alone. Many parents find it difficult to entice their children to eat a variety of healthy foods, especially vegetables.
Plenty of processed and packaged foods for children have added sugars and fats to make them taste sweeter and have a creaminess that kids are often drawn to. Kids get used to those flavors and textures. However, most vegetables do not possess these qualities by themselves.
As parents, we often need to switch things up when planning meals and we have to educate our kids at the same time. Here are a few tips and tricks, yes tricks, to get your kids to eat more vegetables and to enjoy them.
Start Very Young
The very first step is to get your kids eating vegetables from a very young age. You can start with naturally sweet mashed peas or carrots when they are toddlers. Then, add some tiny solid pieces of vegetables into mashes and purées for more texture.
Be sure to introduce lots of colors. For instance, mashed sweet potatoes with little bits of cooked green bell pepper, or pureed broccoli with tiny dices of cooked carrots. According to a Cornell University study, kids prefer a colorful plate of food.
Incorporate Vegetables into Baked Dishes
Yes, this is the trick part. Try not to feel any guilt around this concept. There are so many baked dishes into which you can incorporate vegetables that your kids will still love. Just don’t overdo the veggies at first. And don’t tell them until the next day what they ate, lest you face a meltdown.
Here are some great baked dish ideas with vegetables:
Cornbread with spinach, mild cheese, and a little sweetness
Meatloaf muffins with carrots, onions, and tomato sauce
Mac and cheese with mushrooms and bacon crumbles
Zucchini muffins with honey
Frittata fingers with cheese and tiny broccoli bits
All of these ideas have some soft textures, fattiness, color, and flavors that kids are drawn to. You can also incorporate some greens into fruit smoothies for fiber and extra vitamins and minerals.
Plant a Garden with Your Kids
There is nothing more rewarding or educational than a backyard or windowsill edible garden. Plan a vegetable garden with your kids in the winter. In spring, take them with you to the garden center to pick out the vegetable seedlings that they are curious about. Prepare the garden together, including digging up the earthworms to show the living nature of the soil.
Try not to be too fussy about placement when allowing the little ones to plant seedlings. Help the kids to tend to the garden every day. They are more likely to try what they have had a hand in growing when you both harvest the vegetables.
Ask them to help prepare what they have had a hand in growing. It may just be pride that gets them to try something healthy.
Be Patient Yet Persistent
Kids like carbs and sweet things. They are growing, and this may be what their energetic bodies crave.
Put some small rules in place. For instance, ask your child to try at least one new vegetable every evening when you all sit down to dinner. One bite (and a swallow) may be good enough every night for awhile. As time goes on, ask for more bites and offer rewards, such as a gold star or a bedtime story – not a sugary dessert.
Discuss nutrition until it starts to stick. Explain why vegetables are good for them and why sugar may cause tooth decay and a dreaded trip to the dentist. No need to threaten, just educate. Take your time and exercise some patience. Gone are the days when our parents made us sit at the dinner table all night until we finished a cold plate of peas and drank all of our milk.
Our kids are bombarded with poor food choices, especially with some school lunch programs. They get used to sugary and salty foods that mask the taste of any healthy ingredients. It takes persistence and patience to educate and train our kid’s palates. Eventually, they will come around, as long as you keep at it and get them involved in the process of growing or preparing fresh foods.
About the Author: Victoria is a home cooking mom and a food blogger behind How Daily. She loves to to share her recipes and culinary tips from her diversified experience and multi-cultural lifestyle. She has enjoyed fun time when cooking at home with her kiddo’s help.