Healthy eating habits must be nurtured and developed in childhood. With the childhood obesity rate climbing over 18%, this is more important now than ever. But what do you do when your child refuses to eat vegetables? Try one (or more!) of these 10 creative tips and tricks to encourage your picky little eater to give veggies a try!
1. Model Good Eating Habits
Children emulate you, both the good and the bad. If you eat an array of vegetables and seem to enjoy them, it is more likely that your child will try them. For example, if you proclaim disgust for broccoli, your child will probably also hate broccoli.
2. Get Kids Involved
Children need to assert their independence by choosing their clothes, toys, etc. Why not let them choose their vegetables too? Take your child with you to the supermarket or farmer's market and let them pick the vegetables that they are going to eat. You can take this a step further and allow your kids to help you prepare the veggies they select. You could let them help you follow a recipe or assist with cleaning or chopping the vegetables. Whatever the case, the more involved kids are with food selection and preparation, the more likely they are to eat it.
3. Make It Educational
Look for ways to make eating vegetables an educational experience for your kids. Consider selecting a vegetable of the week or month that kids have to try. Let them choose the vegetable, and you create activities that involve it. You could offer them some fun facts about that vegetable such as famous people who like it, unique ways to use it, or something else that kids might find interesting. This will get them engaged with what is actually on their plate.
4. Provide Variety
Variety can be an important key to encouraging kids to eat their veggies. Offer diverse colors and types of vegetables to your kids, and also change the way you prepare veggies. Dislike of vegetables is sometimes a taste thing (because many vegetables are bitter), but it is often a texture thing. Kids might not like the texture of raw broccoli, but cooked broccoli might appeal to them. Don't stop there. Allow your kids to try frozen or dehydrated vegetables as well. For example, fresh frozen peas appeal to some kids, while other children might like the crunch of dehydrated peapods. Switching things up can keep kids from getting bored and encourage them to try more types of vegetables.
5. Add Fun to Mealtime
Kids love to play make believe. What could be more fun than playing with their food as well? Think of ways to incorporate vegetable into kid-friendly dining adventures. For example, if your kids like dino-nuggets, consider adding some broccoli spears and sliced carrots. Your kids can pretend to be a brontosaurus gobbling up all the trees and rocks.
6. Disguise Vegetables With Other Flavors
Spicing up vegetables with things like cheese, butter, bacon and other flavors can help get a child to enjoy the flavor of vegetables. For example:
- Your child might pucker up for raw broccoli but like broccoli and cheese.
- Instead of a plain potato, load it up with things you know your kid finds delicious, such as bacon and butter.
- Hide vegetables like cucumber or spinach in a flavorful a fruit smoothie. Kids will get their vegetables without even realizing it!
- Add vegetables to their favorite meals. For example, stir in a few veggies the next time you make lasagna or add a little spinach or broccoli to mac and cheese.
7. Pair Veggies With Less Appealing Foods
If you give a kid the choice between mac and cheese or green beans, they are always going to pick the mac and cheese. The pasta dish gets all the attention and the vegetables are wasted. However, it you pair vegetables with a bland food like a sandwich or one of their least favorite foods, this can help to make the vegetables look more appetizing.
8. Just One Bite
According to research, kids may need to be exposed to foods several times to get used to it. This is where the one bite rule can come in really handy. For vegetables that your kids really don't like, have them try it just one bite each time you serve it. After eight to 10 times, your kids might actually start to like the taste.
9. Offer Rewards
Along the lines of the one bite rule, you want to reward children for eating their vegetables. Whether they just eat one bite or clean their plate, maybe they can get some of the favorite fruit or one extra story. Whatever, you use as reinforcement, this will help to promote their positive eating habits.
10. Don't Push
If your kids don't want to eat their vegetables, don't make it a big deal. Pushing kids to eat foods they don't want just adds stress to both you and your child. However, keep introducing them to new and old vegetables on their plate. Whether they eat them or not, seeing them on their plate will get them used to the vegetables. Eventually, they just might decide to give some of the veggies a try.
Healthy Eating Habits
Instilling healthy eating habits into your children is important, but doing so can be more than a little challenging when all they seem to want is ice cream and chicken nuggets. However, with a little ingenuity it is possible to add vegetables to their diet in all sorts of ways.