By Christine Coe | Writer, Mother & Veggie Challenged
Ask any mother (or father) of older children and you will most likely hear that they had difficulties getting their child to eat veggies at one point or another. “Oh it’s normal,” they say. “Don’t worry, they’ll start eating them soon enough,” they say. Well, my daughter is two and a half and she still doesn’t like vegetables unless they are in one of those pouches. Which I’m embarrassed to admit she still eats. But I can’t lie, it comes in handy and it’s a quick way to make sure she’s getting something. I’ve also started making my own – blending up veggies and fruit and pouring it into reusable pouches. But those pouches don’t hold much, so I also make her shakes too, adding some ice and almond or coconut milk. And trust me, I’ve tried everything – putting cheese on top, showing her how good they are by eating them myself and saying “yummmmm!” – okay, maybe that’s not trying everything. Depending on how old your child is there are different strategies you can try to make vegetables a more welcome addition to their meals and snacks… which I’ll share with you. Some of these are from parent friends of mine and some are from the world wide web. Some you’ve probably already tried yourself, but hopefully a few are new to you and will help you devise some alternate strategies to getting your kid(s) to eat more veggies. I know I’m going to!
Don’t give up. Studies have shown it may take 10 or more tries before a child accepts a new food. It’s the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” motto. You can even try serving a smaller portion so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming or pair it with something you know they like – umm, like cheese. Just because it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you! I also think this is something I will try again after she’s “forgotten” she didn’t like it.
Let them cook. Kids are naturally curious and like to help (especially at the toddler stage). As you let them wash the lettuce and snap the green beans, talk to them about eating healthy and why it’s important. Not only do they get to learn at the same time but it gets them excited to try the food they helped make. I know my daughter got really upset recently when I started breakfast the other day without her (that’s her in the cover photo mixing pancake batter).
Set a good example. Have family meals together and don’t make your children a different dinner than you’re having. Unfortunately I am guilty of this and she’s old enough now that I need to heed my own advice. It’s extra work and counter productive. As parents we need to lead by example and let them see we’re eating a variety of nutritious foods ourselves.
Plant a garden. This is a great thing to do with children of all ages. It’s also a great opportunity to start to teach them how and where we get our food. Whether you have room for a big garden in your yard or start small with plants in the house, they can help plant, water, and pick the vegetables. Here’s a great article to get you started.
Try something new. Another great teaching opportunity is to take your child to a farmer’s market. They can learn about where food comes from, the difference between organic produce (if they’re old enough) and what you buy at the store. You can even have them pick out something and then look up a recipe to cook it for dinner that night. It’s all about getting your children involved and invested.
Just one bite. I’m sure you remember hearing this from your own parents, “just try one bite.” It’s not the easiest thing to do when you have a toddler like I do but as kids get older, telling them they don’t have to eat all of something if they at least take one bite, can be a strong motivator for them to just do it and be done with it. Although surprisingly enough, half of the time they’ll probably actually like it and eat it!
Become Houdini. Okay let’s face it, sometimes you just have to hide veggies in foods you know they will eat – smoothies, if you’re like me, muffins, lasagna or scrambled eggs. Van’s Kitchen egg rolls work too! They already have veggies packed inside (including cabbage, celery, onion and carrots) and kids love eating egg rolls because it’s a hands-on experience and fun. Oh, and one of my favorites new ideas to hide veggies is in popsicles! I’m totally trying one of these recipes tonight because my daughter is all about popsicles right now.
So I’d love to hear any tricks that worked for you and any advice you might have for mothers and fathers out there (me included) – please share them on our Facebook page. But remember, every kid is different and it can be tough if you have a picky eater. What worked for one child, might not work for the other. I have learned that patience is key and like the first idea says – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Good luck!