In my many years of clinical practice, the one food group that parents told me that their kids struggled to enjoy is vegetables. It is really important for families to work on improving this as there are essential, protective nutrients in vegetables that our bodies need to thrive. Most of these important phytonutrients (plant nutrients) are simply not found in any other food group (not even fruit).
My kids love vegetables and I don’t believe I’m ‘just lucky’ that this is the case. Like I have persisted with teaching my kids to toilet train, read, write and use manners, I’ve used many strategies to teach them to genuinely enjoy eating a wide range of vegetables.
So today I share my 5 top tips for raising veggie loving kids…
- Educate them
Talk to your kids about vegetables. In my experience, kids are much more likely to eat something if they have an understanding of exactly what it is. My kids have always loved playing games (generally in the car) around vegetables. Things like ‘is it a fruit or a vegetable?’ or ‘where is it grown?’ (on a tree, vine, underground, bush). I’ve also learnt a few things in the process, thank goodness for Google.
- Let them shop
When you are shopping for veggies, get them to help. They could put five of the best looking carrots into a bag for you or choose the biggest broccoli. A friend of mine lets her kids pick one ‘new’ vegetable a week from the farmers market and her challenge is to prepare or cook it (and then her kids eat what they’ve chosen).
- Let them help prepare them
There are many vegetables my kids wouldn’t consider worthy of eating until they helped prepare them. Leafy greens (rocket, spinach etc.) were the biggest veggie hurdle we’ve overcome. My son as a toddler used to push anything green and leafy off his plate stating ‘don’t like flowers’. Then one day he asked to ‘spin the flowers’ – he was fascinated by things that moved. To this day he loves ‘his job’ making salad (washing/spinning the leaves) and his first preference in food, believe it or not, is salad.
- Love eating veggies yourself
Kids are much more likely to follow your example, not your advice. So you can talk until you are blue in the face about how delicious vegetables are, unless you are eating them yourself, you will never get your kids on board. Next time they reject a vegetable, don’t get upset, instead offer it to other members of the family or gobble it up yourself stating ‘you don’t know what you’re missing out on’. Eventually the positive role modelling will rub off.
- Never give up
I can guarantee that persistence will pay off. I think I put salad leaves on my sons plate 1000’s of times before he ate a single leaf. If I didn’t persist, he would still be ‘leafy green’ fussy. If my kids don’t like a vegetable one way, I generally find another way to present it. They currently don’t like zucchini cooked, so I serve it raw. They hate pumpkin baked, but will happily eat it in a soup or lasagne. Patience, persistence and praise is my motto.
I hope this post has given you some ideas that you can implement with your own kids. It’s never too late to turn around veggie fussy kids.