20 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Their Veggies
For whatever reasons, kids just don’t seem to like eating their vegetables. Thankfully, there are lots of ways we can make veggies more appealing to children, and these 20 tricks will help you ensure that your kids are eating the balanced diet they need to grow big, strong and healthy.
Adding a little butter and other flavors can be great for encouraging children to eat more vegetables. Using natural butter is much better than adding lots of sauces that are packed full of sugar. A little garlic might even help, as children tend to be keen to try new flavors.
Make patterns on the plate
Kids like to eat with their eyes as well as with their tongue. Arranging vegetables into patterns and shapes on the plate can make kids more interested in their food. Try making a smiley face with their vegetables, and make eating their veggies fun!
Make it a game
If you have two children, make a game out of who can eat the most vegetables. Children are naturally competitive, especially with their siblings. Make friendly games but reward both of your children when they eat their vegetables. Sure it’s sneaky, but it works really well for lots of people.
Use different colored vegetables
Try and vary your vegetables in terms of color, whether it’s red peppers, purple broccoli or bright orange carrots. Make sure you offer a varied selection of vegetables with different tastes and colors, and your children will be far more likely to pay attention to their plate! Go to your local green grocer and you’ll see a wider selection of vegetables than you do in most supermarkets.
Use fresh vegetables
Let’s face it – fresh vegetables are better than frozen vegetables. Children notice this too! Try your best to use fresh vegetables as often as you can, making sure they have a nice crunch to them. Kids love trying new things and fresh, crunchy and tangy vegetables will be far more interesting to a small child than mushy vegetables that are cooked up after coming out of the freezer.
Tell your children they’ll grow big
Telling a child that a vegetable is good for their eyes or their heart won’t really do much. Children don’t tend to care about whether something is healthy or not.
What they do care about, however, is if something will make them big and strong. This is particularly true for young boys. So, be sure to tell your children that vegetables will make them strong – or give them beautiful curly hair – if they eat them up and keep doing so! This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and it really works.
Reward your children with something when they eat their vegetables and you’ll find that they begin making it a habit. One great idea is to set up a wall chart where you award your children with stickers, and then give them a special reward when they reach a certain amount of stickers. Then, the next time they suddenly become “allergic to vegetables,” offer them a sticker to finish their meal and eat all their veggies.
Don’t be forceful
Forcing a child to finish a plateful of food that they really hate will not help them change their behavior. Instead, it will put the child off the food and maybe even cause them to dislike it into older age. So, make sure that you’re not too forceful with your children and you don’t punish them for not eating their food. Making a child sit at a table until they finish their food for a matter of hours will just have the opposite effect that you want.
Don’t hide them!
Hiding vegetables, like mashing cauliflower into mashed potato, might not actually be all that great an idea. According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, kids will happily eat baked goods that contain vegetables, even when they know they contain vegetables. For instance, cakes and pies that contain vegetables are often A-OK, as long as they also contain something the kids enjoy. Be honest and make vegetables appealing!
Grow your own
Fresh vegetables are one thing, but growing your own is even better. By growing your own vegetables in the garden and getting the children involved, you’ll be giving them a reason to enjoy vegetables. When children enjoy planting vegetables and watching the plants grow, and get excited when you pull them out of the ground, they are going to be far more interested in tasting them too! So, get those plant pots and trowels ready!
Talk to caregivers
Make sure you talk to all caregivers of your children, from school teachers and babysitters to nannies and child care professionals, and tell all of these people what you expect your children to be eating. It can be difficult to expect your children to eat vegetables at home when they’re used to eating sweet and unhealthy foods at school or child care. So, make sure their diet is consistent and it should be far easier!
Take them to a market
Taking your children to a farmer’s market is a great day out. Your kids will be able to enjoy the outdoors and all the amazing colors of the vegetables on sale. You can ask the farmers and market sellers to talk to your children about the vegetables, how they’re grown and how amazing they are. This is a fantastic way to create interest in vegetables.
Cook with the kids!
Much in the same way that kids are more interested in eating vegetables they grow themselves, they will also be more interested in food that they cooked themselves. Of course you don’t want to have your kids running the kitchen alone, but make sure they get to crack the eggs, mix bowls and do other little jobs as you cook.
Take them to a farm
Why not bypass the stores and the markets and go straight to a farm? Showing your children where their food comes from will amaze them, and give them a better understanding of what’s on their plate. Make sure they realize how magical it is for vegetables to grow out of the ground and how they will make you big and strong, and they will likely be more interested in eating them up.
Make a schedule
Why not make a meal schedule that includes vegetables as snacks during the day and as accompanying parts of their meals at night? Top it off with a tasty treat as dessert and your kids will have a better sense of meal structure.
Plan dinners ahead
Plan dinners ahead and make sure the food that you’re putting on a plate is chosen by your children – or at least, they think they have chosen it. Sit down with your children and discuss the kind of food they like and make sure your planned dinners are something they really enjoy.
Get them excited
Plan special meals every week that are designed to be super tasty. Maybe your kids like pizza – in this case, make a pizza night and use fresh, crunchy vegetables as a topping. This special meal will become something they look forward to during the week, so you’ll have no problem making them eat their veggies when they get their plates!
Introduce new foods cleverly
Kids will be more interested in a food if it’s something that is only ‘meant’ for their parents. Eat celery and other less common vegetables in front of your children and make them seem exciting. When your child asks, tell them that it’s mommy or daddy’s special food, and offer them a taste. They’ll end up hooked!
Previously in this list you saw how using butter or garlic is better than fatty and sugary sauces, but that doesn’t mean dips are bad. Try using hummus dips – these are delicious, and also super healthy. It adds an extra dimension of flavour that is bound to encourage children to try new things.
Reduce junk food
Buy less junk food and make sure you don’t have much of it in your refrigerator, and your kids won’t have any other choice. Combine this with excitement around vegetables, making them just as exciting as candy, and you’ll be amazed with the results!