Eating veggies doesn’t often make it to the top of a kid’s to-do list. After all, they barely have enough time to cram in school, play and sleep! Nonetheless, eating vegetables is a cornerstone to optimum health. They are excellent sources of fibre, antioxidants and a host of vitamins and minerals to fuel growing and working bodies. Without these nutrients, your children could develop nutritional deficiencies that could contribute to poor performance and long-term health risks. Depending on their age, kids need between 2-5 ½ serves of veggies per day as a minimum to achieve their nutritional requirements. We know that this can be tricky, since kids don’t necessarily pounce for veggie sticks. Nonetheless, it’s important to stay persistent to instill healthy eating habits from an early age and help them reap the long-term health 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 won’t eat veggies yourself, how can you expect your children to eat otherwise? Kids learn by example, so is so essential to start with yourself and pack in as many veggies as you can into your own daily diet. 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 see 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 buy and try each week. Once they’re home, get the kids to help in the kitchen by washing, peeling or cutting up the vegetables and suggesting ways to cook them, whether it’s steaming, sautéing, boiling or baking. 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:
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
You don’t want to bombard your children with several new foods at once. It’s unlikely they’ll try anything at all that way. 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. Be 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 they push away a vegetable they don’t want to eat. If they do so, there’s no stress. Instead of engaging in a screaming battle, simply pack it away and offer it the next time they say they’re hungry (and don’t prepare anything else instead!). They’ll eventually eat it if there isn’t another option. It is also important to keep meal times positive and calm, as creating negativity around food and eating can have profound effects on their future eating habits as well as leave you frustrated and stressed out. Persevere and it will pay off!
We hope this guide has helped you with some ideas to get your little ones to eat AND enjoy their veggies. If you have more tips that work for you, we’d love you to share with us below!
Check out more of our kid-friendly recipes here.
This blog post was written by Melissa Meier and edited by Michelle Hsu. Melissa and Michelle are interns at The Biting Truth and currently studying their Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at The University of Sydney.