Let's face it, if children had their own way, they would never want to eat vegetables. Most moms know the frustration of trying to get their child to move away from routine eating and incorporate new foods into their diet. Even more challenging, is when this involves vegetables.
Some vegetables, like sweet corn, tend to go down quite well. But what happens with vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli? How do you get your child to eat these, and even enjoy them? Here are 10 ways to get your child to eat more vegetables, and survive to tell the tale:
10 Be a role model
Children will do what they see mom or dad doing. The same applies to healthy nutrition and making food choices. If you want junior to get excited about the vegetables on his or her plate, then be sure to show your own enthusiasm for fruit and vegetables.
Make sure you dish up plenty at mealtimes and eat them with zest. Those wide eyes are watching you and learning what matters most when it comes to mealtimes.
9 Get them involved
One of the ways to get children to be excited about cooking is to let them do the cooking themselves, or to help out at mealtimes. There are many wonderful things that can be done with vegetables, which require creativity and more than one set of hands to prepare.
Children are naturally drawn to cooking and giving them their own recipe book, with foods including vegetables will definitely change the way they perceive foods they are fussier about. Get them excited about cooking by buying them their own aprons, chef hats and mixing bowls!
8 The great outdoors
Visiting farms to see fruit and vegetable harvesting, or to get active in helping to harvest these can do wonders in changing the way children feel about vegetables.
Some farms open their gates for little ones to visit, and will even offer tours of their facilities under guided supervision and instruction. For example, helping to gather lettuce and tomatoes with a professional might make all the difference when your child is given a hamburger with a lettuce and tomato topping.
7 Make it a positive experience
Creating the right dinner-time environment goes a long way in helping children to eat the right foods, and with relative enthusiasm. Creating a good environment will also take the whole family's co-operation. Families should sit around the table, and vegetables can be presented in colourful dishes, which are then passed around, allowing family members to dish up. At the same time, positive remarks can be made about the food in question, so that small ears learn that eating vegetables can, in fact, be a good experience.
6 Grow your own
Don't just take them on a field trip to a farm. Why not grow your own vegetable garden? This is especially fun and parents can go all out to get children involved. Little gardening aprons, gumboots, and gardening tools can be purchased to add to the excitement of the experience. Furthermore, children can learn about planting seeds, and seasonal changes in produce. They can also then experience the joy of harvesting their own vegetables and finally, the goal of the whole exercise, eating them!
5 Get arty
Most moms never thing that they will become 'that' mom. You know her. She's the one who creates pictures out of food and presents her creations on bright plates, with a grin on her face - perhaps hiding desperation or frustration. Still, children take well to food coming in an attractive way and parents might be amazed by how open a small child is to eating something they wouldn't normally eat, if it is disguised as a smile or nose, or curly locks on a 'food face' cleverly positioned on a plate. Or how about a food ship, or an animal, or an attractive design? It's all about getting creative.
4 Don't give up!
It's easy to want to throw in the towel when one has tried time and time again to get your child to eat something, with no luck. Especially when the said child is a toddler, who spits out the pumpkin or broccoli each time. However, perseverance pays off - especially when trying to teach children new eating behaviours. This means growing a 'thick skin' and learning to weather the tantrums and protests at the dinner table. It also means being prepared to sit at the table until the vegetables have been eaten off the plate.
3 Visit the market
Many communities have fresh produce markets, which are attractive and fun and filled with busy people, entertaining vibes and children activities, such as bouncy castles. Getting used to vegetables and vegetable dealers in a becoming environment like this makes children more likely to feel positive towards vegetables when they arrive on the plate at lunch or dinner time. Parents can also let them pick their own vegetables and teach them how to choose the best vegetable from among others, so that they feel they are part of the whole selection process, and the said vegetable isn't being forced upon them at mealtime.
2 Change the way you snack
How you snack will determine how your child perceives what is a treat and what is not. It is advised using fruit and vegetables as snacks so that children start to see these as nutritious, delicious foods and reach for these, instead of sugary foods, when needing a picker-upper. Vegetables can be cut in sticks and served with a dip, or roasted as crisps to add to their flavour. The idea is to get creative and plan for down times when kids are hungry, by keeping veggie-friendly snacks available.
1 Get sneaky
Some moms might want to tear their hair out after having tried all the suggestions for getting their son or daughter to eat more vegetables. In this case, it is best to sneak the chosen vegetables into the main dish, or to purposefully bake dishes which allow for mild-tasting vegetables to be included (without being detected). Vegetables which are easy to include in main meals, with relatively little detection, include carrots, spinach and cauliflower.