Everyone knows that veggies are good for you, but how do you teach kids to actually LIKE the stuff? Well, it is possible and here are a few fun ways to get you started.
1. Monkey See-Monkey Do
If you roll your eyes and make “yuck” faces when vegetables are mentioned, it won’t be long until your kids pick up that notion as well. If veggies are a part of your daily eating routine (and you don’t make a big deal out of it) your child is likely to follow suit. Kids notice everything, and if veggies never appear on your plate, they will know.
2. Have A “Try It” Rule
Food can be an adventure and if your family is stuck in the rut of eating the ol’ vegetables, it’s time to do some sampling of new ones. Insist that your new foods must be tried at least once (or twice, depending on your rule) every time it appears on their plate. Don’t fall for the standard excuse of, “I tried it last time and I didn’t like it” because studies show that repeat exposure to new tastes and flavors is often necessary before kids will like a new food item. In other words, the more often they try it, the greater the chances that they will like it eventually.
3. Think Outside The Carrot Bag
Think of creative ways to cook each veggie. If you have only ever served zucchini raw, try it sautéed in butter or olive oil. If you’ve only bought baby carrots, try buying match-stick-diced ones and add it to salads and soups. Root or vine vegetables like zucchini, squash and pumpkins make wonderful breads, which in turn make for a healthy snack. Cauliflower is good steamed and sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese and or even whipped to a mashed-potato-like consistency and served with melted butter.
4. Make Vegetables A Learning Experience
If you have younger children, create a family “color” night. Plan ahead and serve only foods in that color. On Purple Night you can serve, purple potatoes, or eggplant with a side of yellow squash just for fun. Invite the kids to spend some time on the Internet researching “yellow vegetables” or “root vegetables” and plan a meal around your findings. The point is to make a game of it and not let anyone have the chance to think about it and complain.
5. Get The Tykes Involved In Meals
Kids in the kitchen can be a messy experience, but also a meaningful one. By braving a messy kitchen and letting them help with meal prep, they “learn by doing.” For younger children, pick safe tasks like washing or mashing vegetables and even adding vegetables as ingredients to other dishes for older children.
6. “Veggies On The Sly”
If your kids consistently turn up their noses to the mere mention of veggies, then it’s time to get creative. There are many ways to incorporate vegetables into your family’s diets without creating a mutiny or even changing the flavor of their favorite foods. Here are a few veggie ninja tricks:
- What They Don’t See Won’t Hurt ‘Em: Puree vegetables right into your soups, stews, and homemade sauces. This is even possible if your family prefers store-bought sauces as well and this trick works well with tomato or red-based sauces.
- Add It to Family Favorites: Veggies are easy to add to family favorites like macaroni and cheese, tacos meatballs and even dessert breads. Chances are, your family will be so thrilled that you are serving their favorite, they won’t squawk about the added vegetables.
7. Make It Non-Negotiable
Make it clear saying “no” to veggies isn’t an option, but counter that by giving them a choice on what they’d like to eat. Line up a variety of veggies (carrot sticks, celery sticks, or even raw broccoli and dip) and let them pick one.
So other than getting creative with ideas to get your children eat more veggies, what else can you do to keep your family healthy?
Recent studies have shown that not only do children like to sit down at the dinner table and eat a meal with their parents, but they are more likely to eat a well-balanced, nutritious meal when they do. But with the hectic lives we seem to lead these days, getting the family all together in the same place at the same time can be a difficult chore. Between work schedules, after-school activities, errands, and the like, it seems we have less and less time to enjoy each other company and stay tuned in as a family. However with a few simple ideas and some planning, meal time can be an enjoyable and treasured family time.
- Designate no less than three nights per week as “family-meal-sit-down nights.” Saturday and Sunday nights are usually a good choice for this because you have more time to relax and the weekend chores have been completed.
- Involve your children in the meal planning and preparation. This gives them a strong sense of self and the foundation for a lifetime of healthy meal planning and preparation. If you live by a rural area, a planned trip to a working farm may be very helpful in helping kids understand where their food comes from.
- Set family guidelines and rules when it comes to technology. When it’s time to sit down for a meal, insist that the TV and cellphones be turned off and all electronics be left in another room. Use this opportunity of family togetherness to talk with one another, share details of the day and enjoy one another’s company. If you set an example with not only healthy eating, but paced and relaxed eating, you will be teaching your children how to do the same.
Life moves fast and we all know how busy our family life can be. On those days that you can’t sit down as a family, try to make a habit of sitting down and chatting with them while they are eating, instead of rushing around catching up on the chores. This shows them you’re interested and that you care and want to be and involved and important part of their everyday life. Good nutrition and healthy choices begin at home.