It’s something virtually all parents seem to struggle with: encouraging kids to eat veggies. While they may love them in the future, it’s not uncommon for young children to dislike veggies. The problem is, it’s still important for them to get the nutrition vegetables provide. You need to find ways to make sure your kids are getting these vital nutrients.
That doesn’t mean you have to resort to tricks or bribes, though. The following tips will help you get kids to not only eat their vegetables, but maybe even like them.
Encouraging Kids to Eat Veggies
1. Serve Them with Familiar Foods
Encouraging kids to eat veggies may be more difficult if they’re part of a meal featuring many ingredients they aren’t used to. On the other hand, if you serve veggies up with foods they already know and like, getting them to try a few bites becomes much easier.
2. Don’t Give Up
Parents often assume there is no way they will be able to convince their children vegetables are enjoyable. While they might still be able to convince them they need to eat some veggies, parents can reach a point where the idea of their child actually developing a taste for nutritious foods seems completely unrealistic.
Don’t fall prey to this mindset. The best thing to do when you’re struggling to get a child interested in vegetables is to simply keep serving them.
Yes, you can experiment by serving new vegetables, or serving old ones in new ways. However, it’s worth noting that kids typically need to be exposed to a food several times before developing a taste for it. The fact that your child didn’t like carrots when you served them last week doesn’t mean they never will.
3. Get Your Kids Involved
There are several meals you could serve which would give your child the opportunity to choose which vegetables they wish to try in a way that makes the experience fun. For example, maybe you serve pizza or tacos, with bowls full of colorful toppings. Most of these toppings should be veggies. Letting your child customize their meal and choose their own veggies turns eating well into something they might find genuinely fun.
It’s also a good idea to get kids involved in the actual meal preparation. A child who makes a meal with veggies might be happy to try it if they know they played a role in cooking it.
4. Watch Your Own Eating Habits
Children learn many behaviors by watching their parents. Thus, if you want to convince your child vegetables are delicious and important, you need to model healthy eating for them by enthusiastically adding more veggies to your diet. Over time, the impact this will have on your child’s attitude towards vegetables will be substantial.
5. Make Them Look Fun
Presentation is important when serving vegetables. A haphazard pile of broccoli may convince a child they dislike it before they’ve even tried it. However, if stalks of broccoli were arranged on the plate so as to resemble trees in a landscape, the fun presentation could fascinate a child. Of course, you want to make sure your son or daughter is actually eating their veggies, and not just playing with them. This tactic can simply make them more appealing when they’re first served.
6. Offer Dips
Encouraging kids to eat veggies with hummus, ranch sauce, or another favorite dip isn’t simply a way to conceal the flavor of a food they dislike behind one they do like. It also makes eating vegetables more interactive. Instead of being told exactly what they are expected to eat, kids are given the freedom to choose their own dips (within reason).
This flexibility may be particularly appealing to children who don’t like being told what to do. Granted, it’s important they listen to you, but it’s also important they learn to take ownership over their own diets in the long run. This tip can help.
7. Avoid Too Much Reinforcement
It can be tempting to offer some degree of reinforcement when you’re trying to get a child to eat their veggies. If they refuse to, it seems easy to warn them that they won’t be allowed to eat dessert if they don’t finish their vegetables first. If they are willing to eat vegetables, you might want to encourage them to continue doing so in the future by praising them now.
This is understandable. However, giving too much feedback can cause long-term problems. Your child may begin to associate eating certain foods with receiving praise. What’s more important is for them to learn to listen to their body when making choices about what to eat. You’re simply providing them with nutritious foods now to help them start developing a taste for vegetables.
That’s an important goal for all parents. These tips will help you achieve it. While encouraging kids to eat veggies isn’t always easy, keeping these points in mind definitely makes it easier.