How to get your kids to eat more vegetables
Incorporating vegetables into kids’ diets can be a real challenge! All children will go through phases, having likes and dislikes when it comes to all foods that can change over time, but… we know veggies are often a sticking point. We’ve put together a few useful pointers that we’re confident will get the kids eating more veggies and ensure they have a much healthier relationship with eating the good stuff!
Children learn from and mimic adult behaviours so it’s worth checking your own dietary habits before working on your child’s. Think about your own reactions and behaviours towards eating vegetables, are they how you want your children to approach eating their veggies? Be mindful of other adults around your children declaring their dislike for vegetables and try and avoid phrases like “finish your vegetables”. All this will do is reinforce that it’s something that isn’t nice, but they have to do.
Think about how you can incorporate veggies that you know are all round winners for the family into meals. It’s a lot easier to get your child to eat and enjoy their veggies if they see adults at mealtimes enjoying theirs. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to do this the next few tips will help the whole family enjoy veggies at mealtimes, making it a piece of (veggie) pie…
LET THEM CHOOSE
This one is a winner when it comes to easing some of that stubbornness. Take them to do the food shopping with you and allow them to pick out veggies they express an interest in or like the look of. As an example, you could allow them to pick out 3-4 different veggies in a weekly food shop. Ask them questions like what they like about the vegetable, how you might prepare it and how it should be eaten. Try and be as flexible as you can with this and incorporate what they’ve chosen and allow them to have some input over this. If they get to choose, prep and cook them then they’re much more likely to eat them. Empowering children in this way also encourages them to open their mind to variety and trying new veggies which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life.
MAKE IT FUN
Kids are much more likely to eat something they’ve made themselves or have helped to make, so try and get them involved in the making and preparation of meals that include veggies. Try doing this at the weekends or days when time isn’t a constraint and the clearing up afterwards doesn’t matter as much! The sensory experience of preparing and tasting vegetables as they cook and get involved (especially younger children) is a really important step in engaging them. Ask them about what different vegetables taste, feel, smell like etc. as you go along.
Getting inventive in how you incorporate vegetables in your child’s meal will help keep things interesting…soups, sauces and homemade dips using beans or legumes are a great and easy way to do this, and pureed foods will always appeal to a child’s pallet more when it comes to texture. Try to keep things balanced though! You still want them to be comfortable with eating veggies prepared in other ways and get them used to a range of textures. Preparing these things from scratch might be difficult when you’re too busy to commit too much time, which is where batch cooking comes in really handy. Where you have the spare time, try and bulk cook some homemade soups, sauces etc. packed full of veggies. Jamie Oliver has a great recipe for a 5 Veg Tomato Sauce which is crammed full of veggie goodness and is pretty versatile as you could use it on pasta, pizza based, with a rice dish. Here are some other inventive kid-friendly veggie recipes ideas to try:
- Dips using avocado, beetroot or butternut squash or home make some hummus or other bean dips (mild tasting beans like butter beans and cannellini beans work well for this).
- Pancakes blending veggies into the mix (spinach works well for savoury recipes and sweet potato or butternut squash for either sweet of savoury).
- Grate some carrot into porridge and add a few raisins and nuts or seeds for a carrot cake porridge.
ROUTINE AND REWARD
Getting your child to know what to expect is fundamental in avoiding any drama at mealtimes. If they know that they are likely to have fruit or veggies in some form or another with every meal, then it lowers any worry or anxiety they might have about being given things on their plate they might not like. Frequency and consistency are key!
Try not to reward your child eating their veggies with sweet things or deserts as this will only result in a mind-set where they will view some foods as “good” and others as “bad”. You might have already seen the Vegpower campaign adverts in partnership with ITV which use the slogan “eat them to defeat them”. Their Website has some really useful resources for parents and teachers, such as educational material e.g. games and activities, recipes and ideas on how you can engage and reward your child when it comes to eating their veggies.