From the time their kids start on solid food, most parents wonder how to get children to eat vegetables. The following nine tips can help you guide your children toward a produce-filled future:
- Be the change you want to see. Children are great imitators. If they see you eating your vegetables and making them a priority, it is more likely that it will become a habit for them. Make sure that everyone at the table is eating their share of produce and that special meals are not an option.
- Don’t be a one-man show. Get the kids involved in all aspects of food production and preparation. They are far more likely to be enthusiastic about what they are eating if they have helped to grow, harvest, and prepare it. However, it does not need to be a major production. Simple container gardens and recipes can get the ball rolling to form a lifelong habit.
- Unleash your inner child. Make eating vegetable fun. Create a funny story or game around the food on the plate. For example, the asparagus stalks are logs that have to get stored away before winter comes. The stomach is the woodshed, and the weather is turning cold. Better hurry.
- Create a work of art. Let the children help you use the food to create images. Children like to separate foods and create pictures or patterns. Forget the rule of not playing with your food. A relaxed atmosphere will help to make those vegetables more appealing.
- Dress it up. Some vegetables have a plain taste. Let your children enhance flavor with favorite toppings like butter, condiments, or seasonings. It is also a good time to teach them that it is fine to make food tastier without smothering the nutritional value.
- One bite is enough. When introducing new foods, give the children a chance to get used to them by placing a small amount on the plate each time and saying that one good bite is all they need to eat. It will ease the pressure and let them adjust to the new item at their own pace.
- Avoid a fight to the finish. Even when you require one good bite of a new vegetable, you should try not to turn mealtime into a battle to the finish. Fill the dish with child-sized portions and if they eat most of it, call it a win. Fighting with them to “clean off” the plate will turn meals into power struggles. It is not good for digestion or progress.
- A little praise goes a long way. Children don’t care if greens are healthy, but rewards can be a powerful motivation. They will be more likely to repeat the performance of finishing the spinach if they get extra playtime before bed. It puts eating vegetables in a different light.
- Put your fears aside. Kids love colors and exotic things. Don’t be afraid to try new and colorful produce. Place a platter with several different colored vegetables on the table and let them pick which colors they want to have on their plate. Do some experimenting yourself as an example.
Don’t stress yourself over getting your children to eat their vegetables. Try these tips and make every win count, no matter how small. Creativity, time, and patience go a long way toward building healthy habits.