- by Holly Larson, RD
Getting children to eat more vegetables is a common challenge for parents. It is important for most of our kiddos to increase their intake of vegetables, but it is a situation with no quick fix. The biggest influencer is the parents; what is their attitude about veggies and what are they demonstrating? Kids are very smart and are astute observers. They pay much more attention to what you do rather than what you say.
When a parent asks me for advice on this subject, my first question is what veggies they are eating? If the parent suddenly gets quiet and looks at the ceiling, I can guess that the veggie-free habits of the parent are contributing.
Demonstrate: If a kid rarely sees their caregivers eating veggies, or they only eats broccoli with cheese, the child’s eating habits will likely match. When we are born, our taste preferences are a blank palate. What the child is consistently exposed to will shape their preferences and habits. No, we don’t have an innate chicken nugget, pizza and french fry devotion - kids these days are simply exposed to these foods often.
Feed the Beast: Right before dinner can be the bewitching hour. Instead of shooing kids out of the kitchen, use this time to give them some raw veggies with a healthy dip such as hummus. This won’t ruin their appetite and uses their hunger to your advantage. They say they don’t want the veggies? They can wait until dinner.
Mind Your Ps and Ps: Shaping behavior takes practice and patience. Instead of being disheartened by a child rejecting a veggie the first time it is offered, just think to yourself that “they will like it, they just haven’t had it enough times yet”. Kids may need many positive exposures with any food before they accept it.
Make Tasty Veggies: I didn’t understand why kids didn’t like veggies until I went to college and had canned green beans for the first time. Yuck! Fresh and frozen veggies usually taste best. Don’t overcook your veggies!
Sneak Attack: Hide veggies in other dishes - pureed pumpkin is a nice seasonal addition to chili, mash cauliflower with potatoes, add fresh spinach to a berry smoothie. Veggie sneaking has been found to increase consumption, but this should not be the only tool used.
Dig In: Kids who have a garden tend to be better eaters, especially vegetables! Whether you’re plowing the back 40 or have a tomato pot on your front porch, any chance for the child to engage with how their food is grown will be a positive experience and encourage better eating.
Whiz Kid: An immersion quickly blender turns a big pot of veggies into velvety smooth soup. Make a batch and freeze half in small containers for quick dinners now and later.
As you and your family are increasing the vegetables you eat, be sure to look at the variety of colors. The greater variety of colors, the best nutrient you’re eating; eat the rainbow!
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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment of specific medical conditions. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you and your family.