Yep, I get it – it can be a daily battle trying to get your kids to embrace the good stuff. Don’t give up! It can be tempting to call it a “fussy phase” and expect them to grow out of it, but before you realise, you will have spent a good few months letting them get away with the odd stick of raw carrot and a few peas. Veggies are full of fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins essential to growing bodies and minds; here are some strategies to get some more variety on their plate.
Little kids spend most of their existence being told what to do so they LOVE it when they have a little bit of power. Arrange veggies on a platter and provide them with a pair of tongs to help themselves. Often they will be surprisingly willing to load up their plates.
Provide a selection of 3 – 5 different vegetables and tell your child that they can choose whichever two they want. Start off including two you know they will eat and once they’ve got into the swing of things (after a week or so), swap out one of their favourites for something else. It may even just be a variation on what they already love – for example if they will only eat raw carrots and peas, offer these for a few days alongside broccoli and cauliflower, then one day change the raw carrots for steamed carrots.
Get them involved
There are loads of ways kids can be involved – get them to choose the veggies at the market/supermarket/grocer; grow some veggies in your garden or some herbs in a pot indoors; teach them to use a vegetable peeler and/or a small knife to help with preparation (close supervision required!); ask for their help in meal planning; have an Official Taster Hat in the kitchen and appoint a daily/weekly taster to have a taste of the meal as it comes together; appoint a Server each night to spoon out the vegetables onto each person’s plate.
My veggie-phobe 3 year old adored Dora the Explorer so we found a Dora poster with pictures of different fruit and vegetables and encouraged her to choose 2 new foods each week to try. When she’d tried them, she put a big tick or cross next to the picture to indicate whether she liked it or not, and then the next week she could choose something else. As an added bonus, our Spanish came along in leaps and bounds. Más espinacas favor. Note that a lot of these posters will have loads of fruits on them too – which isn’t usually an issue for kids – so encourage them to choose one fruit and one vegetable. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, make your own – print some pictures of vegetables from the internet or grab a supermarket specials brochure and cut them out.
Get the whole family on board
It’s no good begging and pleading with your kids to eat their Brussels sprouts if Dad is sitting at the table refusing to eat them as well. Word up partners, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other (adult) guests that they are expected to set a good example and eat what they’re given. And to try to act as though they’re enjoying it.
The Vegetable Project
Sorry to break it to you but it might not be the vegetable your child doesn’t like, it may be the way you are cooking it! Find a week when you don’t have too many commitments and launch a Vegetable Project. In my house, we had a Broccoli Project. Announce to the family that next week, broccoli will be on the menu every night but always cooked a different way. Make it a team effort – older kids can help look through recipe books or the internet to find new ideas and you can cut out or print recipes and pictures and ask younger kids to glue them onto a big sheet of paper so the whole family can see what’s on the menu. You can go all out and do some research together to find out about the history of the vegetable, what its called in other countries, the nutrients it contains, how to cultivate it…
Like most parenting adventures, success may not happen overnight but don’t get disheartened! However you get there, persistence is key. Instilling a love of vegetables in your kids while they are young is an investment in their future health and well worth the extra time and effort it takes.