Does trying to get your kids to eat vegetables wear you down? Maybe that’s why breakfast does not typically include vegetables – it’s simply too torturous to begin our days with that fight! But 40-50% of your diet should be vegetables. So how do you get your kids to stop looking at them like the evilest super villain and just eat them?
How do you get your kids to eat vegetables?
- Start them young. In fact, in my book, Digested, Dr. Laurie Berger advises starting your baby on root veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes that are easier for him to digest, as opposed to oat or rice cereal.
- Be persistent. According to researchers, it can take up to 10 times of seeing a new food before a child will even try it. That’s not counting the other 10 times it takes of trying a new food before a child can determine whether he likes it. This effort needs to be a crusade, parents – not just a couple of sporadic fights.
- Add veggies to smoothies, casseroles or frittatas. “Sneaking” them is bound to backfire. But if you add them without creating a scene, it can help get your kids an extra serving of nutritious veggies. Just don’t make this your main method of getting your kids to eat vegetables.
- Get your kids involved in growing and preparing veggies. Feed their natural tendencies to be curious and eager to please.
- Cut them stat! Wash and cut the fresh veggies as soon as you get home from the store, so they will be ready for your kids (and you) the minute you get hungry for a snack. Add hummus or a healthy nut butter to change it up once in a while.
- Limit other choices. During snacks or meals, give kids several veggies to choose from instead of chips, cookies, crackers, mac ‘n cheese and other carb-olicious sides.
- Enforce. Make sure your kids eat their veggies before getting seconds on other foods – as a matter of health, respect to the chef and avoiding waste. Sometimes tough love is needed. During his more stubborn times, I gave my kid the same vegetable 3 meals in a row until he finally ate it – it even went to school for lunch one day. Finally, he realized he didn’t have a choice in this matter and that vegetables are that important. Now I would never do this with a baby and I would not let an older child go an entire day without food – use your instincts but know that he’s often just playing the control game.
- Experiment. Little did I know that my 4-year old would like spinach better than spring mix! Also try different cooking techniques to see if your child likes veggies better raw, steamed, grilled or sautéed. Let her add condiments or cheese in moderation. Send steamed veggies in school lunch if she doesn’t like them raw – temperature may not matter.
- Set a family standard. My kids brought a book home from school about the “two-bite club”, so that’s what we expect from them. Use a chart and reward system if you need. If it’s a new food, remind them they will have to try 2 bites up to 10 different times before they can decide whether they really like it or not.
- Lead by example. None of these other tips will help one bit if you don’t make veggies a major part of your own meals and snacks. NEVER discourage your child from trying something even if he has hated it a hundred times – unless of course, he is allergic to it. Refrain from making hideous faces when you try something you don’t like in front of him. Serve veggies you don’t like and be sure to try 2 bites in front of him!
Getting your kids to eat vegetables can be a bit like the ol’ Dog Whisperer TV program. Sometimes you have to retrain the owners before the dogs will cooperate! Remember that kids pick up on our every word, facial gesture and tone of voice from a very early age. Lead by example and make it your long-term mission to get your kids on board with healthier eating habits.
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.