How to Get Your Children to Eat Vegetables
Do you find it difficult to get your kids to eat broccoli or asparagus? If so, you might like to try the following tips that could perhaps make your kids eat vegetables without much struggle.
You might be playing hide-and-seek with your children every mealtime because they just don’t like to eat vegetables. You hide peas in pancakes, squash in pasta sauce and spinach in smoothies or shakes. You can definitely do that.
However, there would come a time when your kids are older and wiser. They need to learn to eat healthy and nutritious foods without the need for you to hide the vegetables among other foodstuff. The good news is that research has recommended some ways to teach kids to like vegetables without forcing them to. The following are some thoughts on research studies investigating how to increase the vegetable consumption of your children in particular.
10 Tips to Help Your Kids to Eat Healthy
1. Don’t give your kids a negative message about vegetables.
When parents say ‘eat your spinach first before eating your dessert,’ the kids perceive a negative image about eating the vegetable, that it’s something that needs to be tolerated. What parents should say instead is ‘eat your vegetables because they are fuel for your body and they will make you healthy and strong.’
2. Don’t hide the vegetables.
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior published a study that says kids have no problem eating baked goods even if they know they contain vegetables. When served chocolate-chip bread with zucchini, gingerbread spice cake with broccoli and chocolate-chip cookies with chickpea, the schoolchildren enjoyed eating the treats with zucchini and broccoli. They didn’t seem to like chickpea cookies because they don’t know what chickpeas are.
3. Empower the kids to choose their vegetables.
A study in the Netherlands involved 259 children who were 4 to 12 years old and they were given the freedom to choose what fruits and vegetables they like to eat. The children actually consumed a good portion of veggies without difficulty and complaints.
4. Kids like their vegetables crunchy.
The Wageningen University in the Netherlands had a research where children were served carrots and French beans that have been prepared in 6 ways. The kids had an overwhelming preference for vegetables that are crunchy, crispy and juicy. They did not like the slimy, mushy and squishy type of vegetables like okra.
5. Grow your vegetables.
Your kids will love growing a small garden in your backyard. They will get to see for themselves how the veggies grow and they could harvest them then eat them.
6. Make eating vegetables fun.
In a study, the Temple University researchers offered broccoli with a “dip” to 152 preschoolers to see if they would eat it. The kids were served this vegetable and dip two times a week for 7 weeks. The results showed that the kids preferred to eat broccoli when served with the dip, even if low-fat dip was served. Now, this technique can be used to serve other vegetables, for example, red, green and yellow bell peppers with salsa.
7. Be a good model.
If you really want to encourage your kids to eat vegetables, show them that you are eating and enjoying vegetables. It’s likely that your kids will do what you are doing.
8. Give sticker rewards.
A research study was conducted in the United Kingdom involving 173 families that have kids aged 3 to 4 years old. The families wee divided into 3 groups. The first one gave the kids a sticker after trying to eat a disliked vegetable. The second group gave the kids verbal praise and the third group did not give any reward. At the end of 12 days, the kids in the first group were eating more vegetables compared to the kids in the other groups. The good news is that the kids still eat their veggies after 3 months.
Some people do not agree with this strategy. It somehow promotes the negative message about vegetables that is pointed out in tip #1 above.
9. Seek the help of childcare.
When your children are under the care of a daycare or school, it will help if you inform the caregivers that you expect your child to eat vegetables. You should also kindly encourage your child to eat his/her packed lunch even if you’re not there.
10. Don’t stop until your child learns to like vegetables.
Just like parenting, teaching the kids to eat healthy requires persistence as well as consistency. So, don’t give up when you don’t succeed right away in getting your child to eat vegetables. It generally takes more than 10 exposures to get a child accustomed to eating something. So, don’t quit trying.
Photo credits: By Linda Aslund via Flickr, CC by 2.0