I am happy to report my kids love veggies! Not all of them and not all the time, but over the years we have come up with some creative ways to get the kids to enjoy most vegetables and to down the ones they “are learning to like” (a phrase I repeat any time they are tempted to say they flat out “don’t like” something). Truth be told, sometimes the body needs 10 tries to learn to like a food, so if you don’t like something today, keep trying it until you learn to!
Some clever tactics.
1. Serve veggies at most meals – put spinach or peppers in eggs, offer cut up carrots and celery with humus while you are preparing lunch and start dinner with a salad. The more veggies are a part of every day life, the less of an inconvenience they will be.
2. Eat veggies in front of your kids – more is caught than taught, right? If you eat healthy, they will much more naturally want to eat healthy. So, eat salads, veggies for a snack and serve plenty on your plate at dinner.
3. Cook veggies in new and interesting ways, so they aren’t always seeing the same presentation. This will open them up to the creative possibilities of flavor and taste.
4. Ketchup! Might sound strange or even disgusting, but ketchup (or ranch, bbq…etc) covers a multitude of vegetables and helps kids get over the “yuck” factor. All the while, they are training their minds to eat the veggies on their plate. Eventually, they won’t need to smother them in sauce.
5. Set a standard and stick to it. In our house we eat the vegetables before any other part of the meal. When my children were smaller I would only serve them their veggies and they could have the remainder of the food once they had finished. Over time they asked if they could have the entire meal on the plate, assuring me they would still eat the veggies first. They do!
5. Be compassionate. You were a kid once and I’m sure you had a few food items that you just couldn’t stomach. I didn’t like broccoli,as a child, but I am “learning to like it”, and since my kids love it, I eat it often (and I usually point out the fact that it’s not my favorite, but I eat it gracefully for their sake!).
6. Offer rewards. For new veggies or ones that you know in advance are combative, offer a reward before dinner even hits the table, like, “For every brussle sprout you eat happily you can have a Newman O”. I don’t want a bunch of drama, moaning, groaning, nose holding antics (like I pulled as a kid). I expect them to have self-control and act mature about it if they want a reward.
Stepping on soapbox…keep a good stash of natural and organic treats, so your not totally nullifying the brussle sprout with some crazy artificially colored and flavored peice of chemical candy. Off soapbox…
7. The age rule – we require them to eat (at least) their age in veggies. My daughter is served 5, my son 6. Kids are always in a hurry to get older. I think this subconsciously helps them to enjoy being young! I have told them this “rule” stops at 10, because they have asked why I don’t eat 30+ vegetables!
8. Let each child in the house choose the veggie for one meal a week. My kids are usually nearby while I am planning out the weekly menu and I ask for their feedback and allow them to have a voice in what the family eats. After all, they are the largest percentage of what makes up our “family”.
9. Let them cook! Something incredible happens in the mind of a child when they help prepare a meal. It magically becomes a masterpiece that they are excited to eat. Then you get to be the one praising them for the delicious meal, they feel the satisfaction of loving others with food and everyone wins!
10. The list – we allow for 3 items to be on the “list” of things they aren’t required to eat, but I hide those items whenever I can so they are, over time, developing a taste for them. My sons recent list was avocados, tomatoes and bananas. He still can’t do tomatoes or bananas, but has all of a sudden started liking avocados again. I had been putting them into his salads and wraps all along! I still use bananas in smoothies and he loves fresh salsa, so the list is more my que to understand what’s most challenging for them and try to accommodate that by hiding those foods so they become non-offensive.
I will add this one last thing without a number, so the list can be neat and tidy at 10, but if you have any trouble with your kids eating happily at meal time cut out afternoon snacks and eat one hour earlier. A hungry child is far less picky than a child who just filed up on a snack 2hrs before dinner. We usually only have fruit for a snack in the afternoon and if my kids say, “I am hungry.” I respond with, “Great! Dinner is about to be on the table. Go wash up and you can help me set the table!”