We’ve scoured the libraries for the best cookbooks for kids and even tried making carrot and chicken nuggets, but the struggle to get our little ones to eat veggies is all too real. But how can the battle be won when every time a child sees something remotely green and leafy, it results in an eye roll, a sour face or a solid “Yuck!”? Add a dash of indecisiveness and the odd tantrum into the mix, and it’s easy to understand why many parents (us included) want to throw in the salady towel. If you’re worried that your kids aren’t getting the nutrition they need, you aren’t alone. We’ve come up with seven surefire tips to help you get your kids to eat their greens, oranges, yellows, purples and more…
Lead by example
If you’re going to try and convince your kids to eat veggies, you need to make sure you’re actually eating greens yourself. Kids will often learn eating habits from parents, so if you’re not into eating healthily, chances are your small people will use this against you. They’re pretty clever these tiny humans…
Start (super) early
Hey nursing mums, better start stockpiling those greens! Studies show that when a pregnant or nursing mother eats a vegetable-rich diet, the flavours transfer to her amniotic fluid and breastmilk, which in turns prepares her child for eating the good stuff once weaning begins. Which means the better you eat, the better your baby’s food choices will (hopefully) be. If you’re not breastfeeding, fear not. Introducing broccoli et al once your ‘lil one is ready for solids is a good idea for potential veggie-loving success. Plus it makes for some GREAT comedy moments – have your camera on stand-by: those faces!
Add some flavour!
Try this: grab a piece of raw kale. Put it in your mouth. Chew. Do you like how it tastes? We didn’t think so. If you didn’t like it, chances are, your kids probably won’t either. Why not add some flavour to your veggies by using seasoningto make them more appealing – cajun, rosemary, thyme… go wild!. If your kids still refuse to give the greens a whirl, try the old kiddie-stalwart seasonings like butter or cheese? Getting them to like veggies is a process, and seasoning them to make them more palatable is the first step!
Keep on trying
If your kids absolutely refuse to eat a certain vegetable, it will take more than a few tries to get them to like it. Don’t give up! It will probably take more than 15 attempts for them like it – or to even try it. Give it at different meal times and serve it differently each time. For example, peas! Try serving them in a stir fry for dinner or in a baked potato with cheese for lunch, or throw them in a pasta– get creative!
Play with your food
We may think that kids don’t appreciate good plating skills, but they actually do. By presenting veggies in more creative ways, it’s easier to convince kids that food, especially veggies, is fun. One way is to serve them bento-style, where food is shaped into animals, flowers, or cartoon characters. Another great reason to serve veggies bento box style is that the individual compartments helps remind us of correct portion sizes, which makes healthy eating a whole lot easier. Another bonus–it’s your chance to make super cute looking food! Blending veggies into sauces with flavours they already like is also a sneaky but easy way to get the little darlings to at least take a spoonful.
Get them growing, picking, buying and cooking!
If your kids are old enough, get them to help you out in the kitchen! Whether it’s peeling carrots or seasoning cauliflower, they’re more likely to be excited about their meals if they’ve had a hand in creating the fare, which in turns means they might be more willing to eat what’s on their plate. Taking kids grocery shopping is also a good way to get them involved (although don’t bring them along if you are in a hurry!). Get them to choose the shiniest peppers, the greenest long beans and the bumpiest cauliflowers – make the food fun! Or why not take the green-game up a level by growing your own? Our city kids can still get involved with urban gardening thanks to the wonders of an Aerospring, or by joining local Community in Bloom projects.
…and if all else fails…
Do not underestimate the power of a good dip. Kids are all about dipping things (fingers included) into a yummy, creamy sauce, so whack some raw veggie sticks on a plate and let them get on with it. Let’s face it, a stick of celery tastes so much better with a big dollop of hummus!
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