If you have young children, you’ll probably know how difficult it can be to make them sit still for meals. Worst still, getting them to eat their vegetables is an even more challenging task. Some parents try to sneak and disguise vegetables in other forms that could encourage their child to eat their veggies, but did you know child experts now believe this is doing more harm than good to your children?
For example, making mashed cauliflowers instead of mashed potatoes, or adding some spinach into tater tots are great at fooling your kids into eating greens or broccoli or carrots. But aside from the fact that these products tend to only use small traces of vegetables, this strategy assumes the child can’t like kale or broccoli itself, and relying on such methods makes it far more likely that they won’t. This means if kids are not given the opportunity to actually look, taste, and feel how a vegetable is, they won’t get used to it, thus they will not develop a proper liking for veggies. If you want to raise healthy eaters, you need to help them learn to like and prefer healthy foods, and for that to happen you need to let them familiarise themselves with what these foods look like and how they taste.
As adults, we all know the importance of eating our leafy greens. Vegetables are a great source of dietary fibre, which promotes a healthy gut. Loaded with nutritional vitamins and minerals, vegetables are also able to benefit our health is almost every way. It helps to keep our weight down thanks to the low caloric content, it’s able to boost our immune system and keep us healthy, and it can even help us to retain our youthful skin and help us live longer. So you can imagine all the benefits your kids will reap if they start to love eating their greens too.
Childhood obesity rates have been steadily rising across the past few years. With all the easily accessible and readily available fast food and processed snacks, it’s really no wonder why. This just increases the importance of helping your children to develop healthy eating habits, so they can remain healthy and not have to suffer through any of the chronic illnesses associated with obesity.
Still, it is not an easy task. Children are often naturally drawn to what’s familiar and are reluctant or fearful of trying new things—including food. But if children get to experience a particular food again and again — even if it’s just seeing or feeling it — it becomes more familiar, and that could mean they will be more willing to at least try it. Here are some of the best strategies you could employ to get your kids to love their vegetables.
Have Dinner Together
Family dinners are a good place to start. The atmosphere tends to be more positive and engaging, which not only encourages children to consume more healthy food and keep them away from processed and fried foods, but it can even inspire them to be in better physical and mental health for years to come.
Home cooked food may seem like a small thing, but it plays a huge role in early childhood development. When there are meals at home, your child will feel less inclined to look for food elsewhere, and that usually tends to be unhealthy fast food. This will further reinforce the idea that healthy food is better for them—and it really is.
Providing a few healthy dishes that everyone at the table can choose from — it can be as simple as bowls of cherry tomatoes or chopped carrots—will also allow children to make choices about what they do and don’t want to eat. This way, they will develop their own likes and dislikes about healthy food, and if they happen to like it, they will feel more inclined to pick that more often in future.
Don’t Spoil Their Appetites
This is already well-known, but it is worth stressing about again—do not let your kids snack before meals, or it will spoil their appetites and cause them to develop irregular eating habits.
This makes it harder for them to enjoy meal times because they do not actually feel hungry. If parents were to substitute more palatable kid-friendly options, children may simply eat something because it tastes good and not because they are actually hungry.
Enlist Your Kids As Food Helpers
By letting your children help in the kitchen, it can help to open their minds to food and make them excited about food. For example, if a child helps to prepare carrots for roasting, and then arranges them for serving, it can be a stimulating experience for them and make them want to try what they helped to make.
When they are able to help, it makes them feel accomplished and proud, and as a parent, your job is to praise and encourage those feelings. Celebrate what your kids can do, and those positive feelings will reinforce the idea that they are important, and make them feel excited to try again in future.