Vegetables can be the bane of many a parents life. When we’re not trying to plan out our kids intake to make sure that they are getting their 5-a-day, we’re negotiating ways to get them to actually chew and swallow them.
While we may provide them with a healthy balanced plate for dinner, time after time they only eat the meat and carbs. We ask, we tell, we beg – but nothing seems to work! Sound familiar?
The good news is it is possible to get your children eating veg with gusto. It’s all in the way you go about it. With time, consistency and patience, you'll come out victorious in the end, and these handy tips will help you do it.
BE A ROLE MODEL
It may be hard to hear, especially if you're not a fan of vegetables yourself, but it all starts with you. It's just a fact of life that children love to copy what their parents do – from walking around in your heels to making phone calls – and of course, eating dinner!
So, if you're guilty of skimping on your veggies, always yo-yo dieting, or a fan of following the latest foodie fad or craze, unfortunately your kids will follow suit. Therefore the best thing you can do is sit down and eat with them, eating the same thing you want them to eat. When they see you tucking into good food, they'll soon follow your lead.
START ’EM YOUNG
You might not think it but it's never too young to start preparing kids for a veggie-filled life, and it all starts with weaning.
Instead of rice cereal, wean babies on puréed sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots so that they get a taste for the good stuff from the word go. Why not try our Avocado And Banana Super Raw Food ‘Mash’ or Fruity pink porridge for starters?
TRY THE “ONE BITE” RULE
Who doesn't vividly recall being forced to eat something when they were little? Chances are you still don't like the offending food now. That's because forcing children to finish something that they don't like has a knock on negative effect, often leading them to associate bad feelings with the food. Research also tends to show that children need to be exposed to a food multiple times before they start to like it. So if you can't force them to finish it, what do you do? Sounds like a right pickle.
Try the "one bite" rule instead! This works by getting your children to have at least one solid mouthful of any food they hate every time it is served. The idea being, that over time, they'll develop a taste for it. Neat huh?
SNEAKY DOES IT
Do your kids turn up their noses at even the slightest sight or smell of a veggie? Never fear, you're not alone – and there are ways around it.
Channel your inner 007 and take the secret agent approach, smuggling veggies into dishes left, right and centre. Hide finely chopped courgettes, leeks and root vegetables in kid's classic favourite meals such as lasagne, spag bol or cottage pie. It'll be so tasty, they'll never realise your ulterior motive. And once you eventually tell them that the tastes of their favourite foods are made up of veggies, they might be more inclined to give them a go outside of the dish.
Want some more ideas? Mix cauliflower into mac n' cheese, add vegetable juice to soups, blend veggies into pasta sauces, create butternut squash spaghetti or courgette noodles, or, one of our favourites yet, scramble pureed broccoli into eggs to give them 'Green eggs and ham' Dr. Seuss style!
UNDERSTAND THEIR VALUES
Part of the beauty of being a kid is that they don't see the world as adults do. Which means that 'healthy' doesn't necessarily mean ANYTHING to someone who thinks they're superman and is busy flying around with their head in the clouds! So what to do?
In order to get them to understand why veggies are so important, you need to get down to their level of thinking, and come up with reasons that make sense to their everyday concerns. For example, a lot of children feel limited by their size, so telling them that their broccoli will help them grow big and their spinach will make them grow strong is much more effective than trying to convince them that it's good for them. Are your children mad about superheroes? Tell them carrots help them see in the dark and they'll be more than happy to try out the theory! Do they love animals? Tell them that monkey's love bananas and sure enough, they'll soon be begging you for some too.
GET THEM COOKING
This is an oldie but truie. Children are a lot more invested in a meal if they help with its preparation.
This can involve anything from taking them grocery shopping and letting them pick out some of the ingredients, to starting a garden and teaching them how to plant and harvest their own veggies, or getting them to help with prep, such as cleaning carrots, snapping beans and mixing dressings.
Don't stop there – think of different, fun and engaging ways to involve them, such as using veggies in baking and making savoury banana muffins. Yum!
USE DIFFERENT FLAVOURS
Do your children constantly inform you that they don't like their cabbage because it tastes yucky? There's actually a pretty easy solution to this: add flavourings.
There’s nothing wrong with adding additional bits and bobs to veggies in order to make them more appealing. For a picky child, the most important thing is that they eat the veggies, so if you have to wrap them up in a tastier package, don't feel guilty. Other than getting them to eat the offending veggie, the benefit of this is that it also helps children to build positive links between foods in their mind. For example, if they always get spinach wrapped with bacon, and they love bacon, the hope is that they will eventually start associating these two things for the better.
Then all that's left to do is to lower the amount of flavouring or additional food and up the amount of vegetable each time, and hey presto, eventually they'll be eating the spinach without the added help. Now how did that happen?
One of the best ways to get kids eating veggies without realising is by making healthy eating fun. Sounds like a cliché, but when 'playing with your food' is done right it can really help kids to look forward to their veg rather than dread them.
But how? Kids love to play make believe, so turn eating into a game. From turning food into other objects (tomatoes and Brussels sprouts become 'clown noses' and 'fairy cabbages') to creating scenarios for them to act out (such as turning broccoli into tiny trees for dinosaur fodder), once you've planted the seeds of fun kids will even love coming up with their own games and ideas, leaving the hard work up to them!
Lastly, make food art by getting creative with textures, shapes and colours. You can start with things such as smiley-faced sweet potato pancakes or creating a rainbow on their plates. Before you know it they'll be begging for more veggies so they can have more fun!
Head to Asda online and in-store to pick up all the vegetables you need for growing kids, including broccoli and sweet potato. Have you got any fun or interesting ways of getting your kids to eat veggies? Let us know by using #goodliving