It seems like a problem every parent deals with, but why? Why is it so difficult to get kids to eat their vegetables? The answer is a little more complicated than you might expect.
Believe it or not, because breast milk contains naturally occurring sugars, babies are born with a preference towards sweet flavors. Their palates will develop, but their sensitive taste buds are not yet accustomed to the more bitter and complex flavors veggies have to offer. As with building any skill, kids will learn with patience and practice.
As they grow, kids are learning how to relate to their world and be autonomous within it. A lot of pressure from parents will only push kids away from where you want them to go. Instead offering choices and getting them involved in a relaxed environment will make them more likely to want to try new foods!
So how can you get your kid to eat more vegetables and actually enjoy them? Here are our tips:
Take Baby Steps
Begin introducing new foods slowly and pair them with other things your kid already enjoys. When other good options are available it makes the new ones less intimidating.
Make It Tasty
If you choke down a serving of steamed broccoli with dinner like it’s medicine, it’s no wonder your kids grimace every time it ends up on their plate. The first best way to get kids to like veggies is to make them taste good. You don’t have to get too fancy — simply roasting them in a hot oven can bring out the natural sweetness in any veg! Dips are another great addition since kids love to eat with their hands.
Make It Pretty
Nutritionists already recommend we eat the rainbow. Now use it to your advantage — an array of colors is certainly more appetizing than a plate of green, white, and brown. Get creative with presentation and let your kids help arrange their food in fun shapes and patterns. After all — we eat with our eyes first!
Make Them Readily Available
This tip is an oldie but a goodie — make fresh, clean, cut up and ready to eat veggies the focal point of your fridge. Keep them front and center and easy to grab. That way it’s the first things kids will reach for.
Get Kids Involved
From the market to your table — there’s tons of opportunities to get kids involved with their food. Let them help you choose vegetables they’d like to try. Show them how their food is prepared and let them choose recipes and help create them whenever possible. They’ll feel more connected to their food AND if kids are proud to serve a dish they made, you better believe they’ll be excited to eat it too.
Offer Low-Risk Choices
Remember to keep it low pressure! It’s your job to determine what food is served. It’s your kid’s job to decide what they want to eat and how much. The more choice you can offer, the more your kids will feel comfortable trying different things. Here’s a great sneaky tip — offer two veggie options at dinner and ask if your child would like one, the other, or both. It’s shocking how many picky kids will choose both options when they feel empowered to make the decision themselves.
Lead by Example
Eat your veggies first! At the end of the day, your kids are going to model your behavior — so be a good model!
The best advice we can give is to maintain consistency and don’t give up hope! Keep offering your children colorful veggie options and eventually they’ll find the things they like.
When all else fails it’s time to play hide and seek. Vegetables are incredibly versatile and easy to hide -- especially in comfort foods! There are the ever popular zucchini noodles, mixed veggie tots, cauliflower rice and pizza crust options, but the truth is you can puree almost any mild flavored vegetable and toss it into a tomato sauce without any real change in flavor. The pickiest eaters don’t ever have to know you snuck veggies into their favorite meal. For the more intrepid kids, however, make it into a fun game! Can you guess where the veggies are hidden in this recipe? Mysteries abound -- adventure awaits!
We hope we’ve inspired you to get creative in the kitchen with your kids. The more fun and interactive you can make mealtime, the less you'll stress about vegetables!