Vegetables are an important part of everyone's daily food intake, and healthy eating habits developed during toddler years, can set a child up well for the rest of their life. If you have a child who turns their nose up at eating vegetables, here are a few tricks that you can try:
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1) Try more than once. Like many things in life, learning to love vegetables (or just tolerate them) may take more than one attempt; what a child likes one week they may hate the next and vice versa. Perseverance is key, and by showing your child that eating vegetables isn't something that you are going to give up on, they will cotton on to this too. When trying new vegetables, or any food for that matter, you could try the technique that you merely expect them to try one mouthful. This, in its most basic form, allows your child to not feel overwhelmed when trying new things, yet encourages them to experiment.
2) Role model eating Parents are one of the biggest role models to their children, and if role models aren't eating their vegetables, it's a bit of a double standard to then expect kids to eat theirs. Try to role model healthy eating habits that kids can emulate and talk about how delicious the vegetables are to attach positivity to the experience.
3) Grow your own If your children are very averse to trying vegetables, you could get them involved in planting and growing their own little veggie patch. Kids love learning about how to grow their own vegetables and once you harvest your plants, they seem a little keener to try what they've had a hand in creating. The same can be said for including children in cooking; it's a great way to get them involved in making a meal, and it ups the likelihood of getting them to eat their handmade creations.
4) Smuggle the vegetables
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If you are really struggling with getting any vegetables into your kids, you may have to adopt a slightly more covert stance. Vegetables are packed with vital nutrients and vitamins that your child needs so you just need to find a way to hide them in a variety of different foods. Concentrate on meals that you know that your children already enjoy and then find ways to increase the vegetable component of these meals. Here are a few easy options:
Grated carrot or chopped spinach on pizza (hidden in the cheese).
Make your own pasta sauce and include garlic, onion, tomato, capsicum, carrot, pumpkin and spinach. You can blend your vegetable sauce down to a smooth consistency that kids will love enjoy over pasta.
Add to savoury muffins - e.g. ham and cheese muffins with some grated zuccini or carrot in them.
You can hide a myriad of vegetables within a curry so if your child enjoys spicy food, consider adding pumpkin, chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach or broccoli.
5) One vegetable multiple ways A vegetable can take on a different flavour and consistency dependent upon how it is cooked. For example a raw carrot tastes totally different to a roasted carrot or even a boiled carrot. Find different ways to cook vegetables that match your child's taste preferences. Sometimes it isn't a case of fussiness, it could be the fact that your child may just not like certain consistencies. Even as an adult, I'll pass up boiled vegetables in favour or tasty roasted vegetables.
6) Focus on the positives If there are veggies that your kid adores, then include these at meal times and praise your child for eating them. When your child tries a new vegetable, even if they still announce that they dislike it, praise them for trying it.
7) Keep it fun Don't let your meal times descend into constant battlegrounds. Pick your moments to enforce vegetable eating, and avoid making every meal time an argument. Family meal times are a great opportunity for everyone to share moments from their day and enjoy being together so find the balance between encouraging healthy eating habits and arguing the point.
8) Snack time vegetables Vegetables shouldn't just be kept for meal times, and there are lots of ways you can encourage your child to eat vegetables in their snack time too. Some children dislike the texture of cooked vegetables, preferring the crunch of raw vegetables. Consider putting out raw vegetable sticks with a yummy dip that they might enjoy. Vegetables that make an excellent snack raw include carrots, celery, capsicum, cucumber and beetroot.
9) Juiced vegetables Another popular way of smuggling vegetables into your child's dietary intake is through adding them to fresh juice blends or into a fruity smoothie. There are countless combinations and as many root vegetables are naturally sweet, the flavours are really quite delicious. A popular fresh juice is carrot and apple, and for a smoothie, try peach, mango and butternut squash. If you're looking for inspiration, check out these delicious sounding smoothies for kids.
10) Don't give up Like many things in life, if at first you don't succeed, try again and this is definitely true in moving your child towards a healthier way of eating. The fact is that your child needs a good intake of fruit and vegetables for their healthy development. Something so important cannot be ignored, so if your child is resistant to all things vegetable related, just keep at it, and maybe try a few different approaches, till you find the one that fits.
What has worked for your child to help them to eat their vegetables?