5 Ways To Get Your Kids to Eat Their Vegetables
As parents, we know that it is of vital importance to have our children eat a variety of vegetables. The vitamins and nutrients in vegetables are essential to physical growth as well as brain development and immune system health. Unfortunately, knowing this and making it happen are different challenges entirely.
Because there are so many processed, packaged snacks and treats, it is much easier to give these to our children on-the-go. But these foods harm our kids in many ways. They can even affect their mood. Most families have busy schedules that mean there isn’t a lot of time to prep and serve fresh vegetables every day. The FDA recommends three to five servings per day for children and teens. A serving can be one cup of raw leafy vegetables,
1/2 cup of other vegetables (cooked or raw) or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice.
Whether our children fall short of the recommended daily servings because of convenience or because they just don’t like the taste, it is up to parents to offer vegetables every day and encourage our children to try them. Of course, this is easier said than done!
Here are our tips for getting your kids to eat more veggies.
Make It Simple
This is more for you, mom and dad, than for the kids. You’re the one buying the groceries and preparing the snacks and meals. If it’s not easy and convenient for you, it is much too easy to fall back on prepackaged snacks when the kids are clamoring for food. Here are some ways you can have veggies on hand and ready to eat for hungry children.
Juice: This is possibly the easiest way to get some veggie nutrients into your children. Many juice brands offer tasty options with a full serving of vegetables. If your children are resistant, find a fruit and veggie blend to help adjust their palates to a veggie juice. Any juice that includes apple or grape juice is typically more kid-friendly to veggie haters than strictly vegetable juice blends. Just be sure to check the label to avoid excessive added sugar.
Prep: Set aside about an hour after your grocery run to prep and package your fresh veggies. This will make them available and ready to eat when time is short on busy days. Be sure to wash all veggies, then peel and slice as necessary. Using plastic bags or small containers, divide into one-serving portions and store them in a tub in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack.
Let Them Help
Many younger children are much more likely to be interested in food that they picked out or helped prepare. Take your children to the produce department and ask them to help you identify different types of vegetables and choose one or two to try. Let them help you find ways to prepare or cook those foods, and bring them into the kitchen when it’s time to cook. Depending on the age of the child, they may be able to wash and dry, slice or season foods and observe the process. Allow them to sample those veggies so that they are experiencing the foods through multiple senses. This investment in preparing the veggies gives them a sense of accomplishment and an openness to tasting unfamiliar foods.
If you’re short on time, another great way to get your children involved without trying to find the right foods and recipes yourself is subscribing to a meal delivery service. Most will deliver prepped food with quick recipes right to your door. The instructions are straightforward and the ingredients are portioned and prepped. These services are a great way to try vegetables you may never have thought of or experience your favorites with new preparation techniques.
Make It Fun
Parents have been trying to entice their kids to do less pleasant activities with rewards for years. Chore charts, prize baskets and extra privileges are the currency of childhood. Getting them to eat vegetables can be another reward-worthy behavior.
One option is to create a reward chart using the rainbow colors. The wider variety of veggie color your child eats, the better. Each time your child eats a vegetable, have him mark out the rainbow color on the chart of the veggie he ate. Offer a reward each time he or she covers all of the rainbow colors. This can be a great way to increase healthy snacking and offer sweets and processed foods only on special occasions, such as when they complete the rainbow veggie chart.
Dress It Up
This is a time-tested trick for younger children. Make those veggies fun with creative serving styles. Who can forget the classic “ants on a log” snack of celery topped with peanut butter and raisins our own parents loved to make for us? Some fun new twists are veggie vases and the hilarious and delicious bell pepper octopus.
Take a few minutes to be creative with your child’s plate and see her interest in a fun new way to eat vegetables.
As much as we would like to have our kids willingly eat the required daily servings of veggies, the fact is, many kids will resist despite our best efforts. While it’s still a good idea to offer undisguised vegetables, there are many great ways to sneak veggies into everyday foods. Entire cookbooks have been written about how to purée steamed veggies and add them to macaroni and cheese, or coat chicken tenders with them. So many of these recipes conceal the veggies so well that even the pickiest eater will never suspect that they’re actually eating broccoli or carrots!
Some easy hacks include adding spinach or puréed carrot to meat sauce, fortifying pancake or waffle batter with pumpkin purée, mix puréed cauliflower into macaroni, or add steamed, puréed broccoli to your favorite meatball recipe.
Teaching our kids healthy eating habits is still a challenge, but with these tools and tricks, mealtimes can be easier and more fun with great nutrition and a little creativity.
A huge thank you to Rachel Fink of Parenting Pod for sharing these amazing tips with us. As parents we are always looking for ways to improve the diets of our boys and make sure that they eat the best of the best when it comes to their vegetables. If you have tips to share please feel free to comment below.