Aussie kids aren’t eating enough veggies. According to current estimates, they are a long way off with only around 5% of Aussie kids meeting the recommended serves of vegetables each day. Depending on their age, kids need between 2-5 ½ serves of veggies per day as a minimum to achieve their nutritional requirements. There’s no denying that getting kids to eat their veggies is a tricky task. Nonetheless, it’s important to consistently offer vegetables to your child so that you can instil healthy eating behaviours in them from an early age which they can carry with them and reap the long-term benefits when they grow up!
To help you navigate this often-challenging time, here’s our top tips for getting your children to eat (and enjoy) their veggies.
1. Set an example
If you’re not eating veggies, how can you expect your children to eat otherwise? Kids learn by example, so it is essential to start with your diet and pack in as many veggies as you can. A handy rule of thumb is to aim to fill at least half of your plate with veggies at every meal. You could do this by adding sautéed mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes to your breakfast, add extra salad fillings to your lunchtime sandwich or roast a side of colourful veggies for your dinner.
2. Share meal times with other children
If your children sees their peers eating their veggies, the chances are that they will follow. Particularly if you have a single child or if they haven’t started school yet, allowing them to share meals with other children will encourage them to eat a wider variety of foods. If your friends also have children of similar ages, you could organise a picnic or play date for the kids and ask each family to bring a healthy vegetable-based dish to share.
3. Get them involved
The more they see veggies, the more likely they are to eat them. Take your children grocery shopping and let them choose a veggie or two to try each week. Once they’re home, get the kids to help in the kitchen by washing, peeling or cutting up the vegetables using a kid-safe knife. If you’re lucky you might even get them to do the washing up!
4. Take advantage of snack times
Veggies aren’t only great for main meals but also make versatile snack options. Mid-meal snacks are fantastic opportunities to bump up your little ones’ veggie intakes and will teach kids different ways of enjoying them. Find inspiration from some of our favourite veg-based snacks here:
- Mushroom and Chickpea Sausage Rolls
- Baked Ham and Vegetable Slice
- Easy Peasy Hummus
- Zucchini and Pea Slice
5. Be persistent
Don’t get too worked up if your kids turn down a new vegetable the first time they try it. Children need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they accept it or like it. The key is to keep trying and offer the same vegetable in a variety of ways. For example, you could try raw capsicum with dips, bake whole capsicums stuffed with lean mince and rice, or roasted capsicum strips in salads or on sandwiches.
6. Serve new foods alongside familiar foods
Be careful not to bombard your child with several new foods at once. Presenting them with a bowl full of new foods can be quite overwhelming and chances are they’ll be less likely to try anything at all. Rather, offering a new food at a time with a familiar food which they enjoy will provide some comfort whilst encouraging them to taste something new.
7. Try to remain cool, calm and collected
Meal times can be a test of your patience, but it’s important not to get upset or lose your temper when your child throws away a vegetable they don’t want to eat. If they do so, try to remain calm. By remaining calm, you will help to ensure meal times are a positive experience for your child. You don’t want your child to dread meal times as this will impact on what and how much they eat and could impact their future eating habits.
- Check out our Kids Lunchbox eBook.
- Check out more of our kid-friendly recipes here.
- To learn more about kids nutrition, click here.