Getting kids to eat vegetables is the number one health concern for parents, whether they have a picky eater or not. Vegetables by their very nature tend to be a bit bitter. So how do we convince kids that veggies are tasty?
Sometimes we get so caught up in demanding kids eat their veggies that we end up sabotaging our well-intended efforts. My parenting book, Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater and my storybook, The Forest Feast attack this problem on two fronts. First for the parent: Baby Bites gives parents the tools they need to transform their picky eaters through multi-sensory learning. Then the child is entertained while reading The Forest Feast, which reinforces the idea that whole foods are yummy! (Okay, this is a shameless plug for my books, but they really will help you!)
Sarah loves veggies!
This may be obvious, but limit snacks and offer them at least two hours before mealtimes. A child, who is not particularly hungry, won’t willingly eat something he/she has predetermined to be “yucky.” Then serve the vegetable first, before the rest of the meal, when your child is the most hungry. That said there are a few tricks of the trade for making veggies more appealing to your kids.
Avoid Veggie Battles
1) You eat with your eyes first. Kids do too. Restaurants know food presentation is vital and go to great effort to make their dishes eye appealing. Make your veggies look scrumptious. After all, vegetables are beautiful. Think like a kid. Make a funny veggie face on a pancake. Cut sandwiches to look like animals. Plate your child’s food on a colorful dish.
2) Play at the table. Give vegetables silly names. A child may be more interested in eating Try Rannosaurus’ broccoli trees, than say plain ol’ broccoli. See who can have the reddest lips after eating beets. Eat like Betty Baby Bites…in tiny nibbles. Give your special vegetable creations funny names like one of my favorites “Green Meat Casserole.” Make a veggie forest swamp and play with your child as you dip veggie tress, bushes and lily pads into the swamp dip. In a loud voice say, “Green food is yummy” just like Try Rannosaurus does in The Forest Feast.
3) Be creative when preparing vegetables. Plain vegetables are the most boring. Raw, steamed, mashed and grilled are just some of the ways you can prepare vegetables. Make veggies the Italian way with olive oil and garlic. Then say, “Boun appetito.”
If your child has issues with the texture of vegetables, mashing or incorporating into various dishes can make a world of difference. Veggies mixed in casseroles take on the flavor of the dish. Most kids balk at eating spinach, which has a slightly bitter taste, but spinach takes on other flavors when mixed in casseroles and soups. Top sandwiches with shredded carrots, mashed avocadoes, sprouts, and sliced tomatoes.
Kids love to dip. Serve vegetables with a dipping sauce. Offer yummy dips made with yogurt, hummus, and blue cheese.
Finally, never give up. It usually takes at least a dozen times of eating a new food before acceptance. So don’t give up!