Here’s a great update to our Mother’s Day newsletter and blog post on the topic “Your Mother was Right: Eat your Vegetables“. Kathy Balcer, Educational Consultant, Coach and Parenting Expert at Books Family Health Center, shares tips on how she successfully got her family to consume more of the green stuff.
The most common food complaint is this, “my kid won’t eat their veggies”.
Although getting kids to eat the green stuff can be challenging at times, remember that fruits and vegetables are probably the most important food your child can learn to eat for a healthy body weight and the prevention of disease.
I tried everything, and yet, when my sons were young, all my efforts to feed my family were being undermined by a powerful force – vegetables! Over time, here are some tips that worked for me to get more veggies into my family’s diet.
How do you do it?
- Introduce your child to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – the earlier in life the better. Start by pointing them out in the store. Let them put them in the bag and weigh them if possible.
- Serve them often. Really small amounts are a good start. Children need to be exposed to, and ideally taste, a new food as many as 10 to 15 times before they’ll accept it (parents often give up after less than 3).
- Give them to kids when they’re most hungry.
- Slice them and dice them. A kid might refuse a whole pear, but will happily enjoy a sliced one. If your child can eat cream cheese or unsweetened Greek yogurt, spread that on the slices and put the fruit back together in halves. Try almond butter with apples with a blueberry on top..
- Serve veggies raw and with dip. While I cooked dinner, I sliced carrots, celery and colorful peppers, had a bowl of dip and snacked myself – this drew my kids to try the same thing.
- That reminds me, YOU have to model eating veggies, so dig in!
- Olive oil drizzled over veggies with a timey bit of salt a pepper (if needed) make the flavor yummy because olive oil can taste nutty. Buy it in a dark jar for best flavor.
- Make homemade smoothies. Add some fruit, water or diluted juice, a few ice cubes, a few leaves of spinach or a kale leaf and they won’ t be able to taste the greens. If they need it to be a little sweeter, add some grapes instead of juice – you get the fructose but the fiber too.
- Taste matters – it’s okay to put a little cheese sauce on broccoli or make honey-glazed carrots.
- Visit local farmer’s markets and pick-your-own produce farms to buy from as a family. Try a new veggie every two weeks – buy a small amount so if they don’t like it yet, there is little waste. Maybe Wednesday is new veggie day.
- Use a Salad Shooter – it grates veggies, squash, zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, into small matchsticks; it is FAST and quick to clean. I had to be a little sneaky – I grated yellow squash, zucchini and carrot in my spaghetti sauce.
- On salads, I tore a few leaves of spinach (so kids would get used to the green color being different than the salad greens color and eventually got the salad up to half spinach, then 6 months later began adding kale!) to add to a salad and with salad shooter, added grated carrots and zucchini on top for color. (I had to mix it all up at first so kids didn’t notice too much)
- Frozen green peas from a bag put in a single serving dish was a novelty my kids liked a lot!
- You can blend an avocado into anything and can’t really taste it – it is a good healthy fat that helps your kids fight sweet cravings and feel more satisfied. It makes a smoothie a little thicker.
- I didn’t “show off” the healthy veggies I was adding (sneaking) into our food until my kids were much older (late high school)
- Lastly, and most important, don’t give up!
Your kids, when they are adults, will thank you for having trained their pallets and taste buds to enjoy vegetables to secure a better chance at a healthier life.