Everyone knows that vegetables pack an important nutritional punch and their low-fat content leaves greasy snack foods “green with envy”, which is why we as parents are strongly motivated to try to convince our children to eat up all their veggies. Many parents face a frustrating and common issue though: their children flat out refuse to eat vegetables!
Unfortunately, the days of lying to your kids about the “magical” properties of vegetables are long gone. Nowadays, a simple search on Google reveals that onions do not in fact cause an abundance of chest hair and that eating your carrots will not in fact make you see in the dark. Therefore, if you are a parent and your kids are reluctant to “Go Green”, here are some new age techniques you can employ… before your kitchen turns into a full-fledged war zone!
1. Try new things. When dinner is served, all members at the table should be encouraged to sample all the foods that are available. In other words, Jr. may be reluctant to try the cold slaw salad, but he should at least be encouraged to sample it (tell him he can even spit it out if he doesn’t like it!). Hopefully, he’ll like it, but even if he doesn’t, he has gotten into the commendable habit of sampling different flavors and textures.
2. Involve them. Encourage your children to participate in the preparation of the family dinner or at least one particular dish, which contains vegetables. It’s more fun to eat your own creation! As an added bonus, the children who participate in the recipe have familiarity with the ingredients, which makes the dish “less strange”.
3. Be creative. If a child refuses to eat certain vegetables, then it’s best not to serve them again right? Wrong. If your children do not like a vegetable served in a particular manner, try preparing it with a completely different recipe. For example, my 6-year-old daughter refused to eat zucchini that was sautéed with butter. However, when I fried it lightly and topped it with spaghetti sauce, she ate it all up. Granted, the nutritional value is stunted when the zucchini is fried, however, it’s a start…
4. Employ “sneaky tactics”. My sister’s 5-year-old son flatly refuses to eat vegetables however he will eat pasta with a light sauce. She adds to the sauce some mashed sweet potato, and he never complains! A friend of mine also tricks her 9 year old into eating more vegetables by adding a bit of V8 juice to his mashed potatoes instead of butter. He likes the red color it makes them! Note: Some juices contain juiced vegetables and although don’t offer the full benefit of a raw vegetable, they do offer a healthy alternative, when used in moderation.
5. Bribe your child. Yes, you read that correctly! Try offering your child some incentive to munch on that salad or finish that broccoli. For example, you might promise your child that when he finishes that salad, you will take some time out of your busy schedule to help him complete his birdhouse or take him to the park. Note: Be sure to make good on your promise though or it’ll be a one-time deal!
6. Make vegetables fun! For example, prepare a variety of dipping sauces and line them up next to the vegetables (Hint: Ranch dressing is usually a popular choice with young children, although not the healthiest. Try substituting yogurt mixed with flavorful herbs instead). Also try preparing works of art on your child’s plate using colorful vegetables; the carrot can be a nose, the potatoes can be eyes, corn on the cob for a mouth and so on. Also, let your kids know that it’s okay with you if they sometimes eat their veggies with their fingers. What better way to make it fun!
7. Plan your attack. Prepare vegetables ahead of time, so that when your kids need a snack in a rush, they are readily available. For example, peel and slice some carrots and keep them in your fridge so that the following day, you can throw them on a plate, in a hurry. Crackers, mozzarella and baby carrots make for a delicious and healthy after-school snack! Also try washing, drying and then rolling your lettuce up in damp paper towel for storing in the fridge. This way fresh lettuce is always waiting for sandwiches, wraps etc.
Getting kids to eat all of their vegetables would certainly be ideal but even if you can get them to eat some, you’re one step ahead of most parents. Best of success to you!