Eat your veges!
Vegetables are important for healthy growth and development in children, because they provide essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.
But it is sometimes hard to get our kids to eat them!
I have 3 teenagers and they are mostly great with vegetables but it took many years of persistence and they still have different likes and dislikes. One won't eat zucchini (but he loves Brussels sprouts!), another dislikes beetroot and the eldest won't eat peas.
What we are aiming to do as a parent, is to encourage a life long love of healthy eating in our children.
These are my tips for helping kids to develop a taste for vegetables:
1. Talk to your children about why we eat vegetables, so that they can understand why it's important. Kids are smart and soak up information.
2. Don't make a fuss about the vegetables. Put a small amount on their plate every night and encourage them to eat but don't let it turn into an argument. Allow your kids to develop some control over what and how much they eat.
3. Be patient, it can take 10 or 15 times offering a vegetable to a child before they will eat enough to taste it and it may be even longer before they start to like it!
4. Try giving your children a choice before you start to cook: "What do you feel like eating? Should I cook broccoli or beans tonight?"
5. When they are very little, it might be fun to pretend that the spoon is an aeroplane but don't carry that on too long. Encourage children to use cutlery and to feed themselves, this gives them skills and control over what they eat.
6. Snacks are a great way to get kids to eat vegetables. You might be surprised at how much they like cherry tomatoes. Carrot and celery sticks are often a favourite with kids, especially if they can dip them in sauce or hummus.
7. Gradually add vegetables to favourite family meals. Try grating carrot or cauliflower into spaghetti bolognese sauce. Sautéed celery in a chicken soup is delicious and it's easy to pop capsicum or tomatoes into a frittata.
8. Try offering vegetables cooked in different ways, because it can really change the taste.Your child may not like raw tomato but may love it as a cheese and tomato toastie. Baked vegetables can be delicious when steamed are not (this is how I got my son to eat Brussles sprouts).
9. Make sure the vegetables are fresh! Fresh vege are infinitely more delicious than the peas and carrots that come frozen in a packet!
10. Variety is also good for children. Try to get a few different colours on the plate at each meal. If your child consistently won't eat broccoli, take a break from broccoli and try cauliflower, beans or corn.
11. Get the kids involved in the cooking from time to time, you might even find that they snack on the vegetables as you are preparing them.
12. Add flavour with butter, sauces or herbs.
13. If you have the time and the space it can be great to get kids involved in growing vegetables so that they can see where they come from. Peas are easy to grow and fun to pick and eat.
14. Don't use bribery to get children to eat their vegetables because this can lead to long term unhealthy eating habits. Make dessert something for special occasions and not as a reward for eating dinner.
15. Stay positive! Don't force them and don't give up! If you keep offering children vegetables and they see you eating them every day, then one day, they will too. :)
Still concerned about what your child is eating?
I am a Sydney based naturopath and nutritionist with a special interest in children's health. If you are unsure about the nutritional needs of your child, or if they are unwell and you need advice, please contact me for an appointment or visit my website for more information.