Every parent knows how it can be a constant struggle to get kids to finish their vegetables, much less enjoy them. However, nutrition plays a major role in child development, and it’s never too late to teach your kids that eating healthy doesn’t have to be a drag. Try these tips to get your kids looking forward to eating vegetables.
Feed Your Kids What You Eat
We often think that kids are simply picky eaters and will only eat fatty, salty, and sweet foods. Biologically, those foods (i.e. pizza, macaroni & cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, PB & J, etc.) are appealing to children, but they will ultimately imitate what they see. A special kid’s menu may seem like an easy answer to get children to eat, but if they see their parents eating a balanced meal and they’re exposed to a variety of flavors early on, they’ll be predisposed to eat what their parents eat. Children will reject a new flavor and food and that should be expected, but zucchini doesn’t need to be drenched in butter or dipped in ranch to be enjoyed. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Play with Food Together
If you want your child to appreciate their vegetables and look forward to eating them, consider going against the old directive of “don’t play with your food” and encourage some interaction. If kids are engaged with vegetables, they’re more likely to accept the veggies based on their familiarization and relating them to happy moments. Some ways you can play with veggies are creating food stamps out of different vegetables (carrots, squash, and zucchini are perfect for this), making edible food paint, using various vegetables to identify colors, and/or doing a food test with blindfolds.
Get Your Kids Involved
In addition to playing with the food, your child can further interact with their vegetables by becoming a budding culinary artist. Children are curious by nature, so consider taking them with you to the farmers market and grocery stores to explore and pick out interesting and unusual vegetables. Once it’s time to prepare the food, let them help any way they can, whether it’s in the meal planning or in the food preparation. By allowing children to pick out the vegetables they eat and help prepare the meals, they’ll have a sense of ownership in what they’re putting in their bodies. Not to mention, by getting your kids involved you’re having fun and keeping them busy.
Test Your Green Thumb
The benefits of gardening are endless. A small garden can keep you stocked up on your favorite veggies all spring, summer, and fall (winter too, if you want to try your hand at jarring), and it provides some relaxing time outdoors. For parents, the added benefit of a garden is that your child can be encouraged to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Children love to play outside and interact with the earth, and gardening allows for such activity. They’ll learn about vegetables and be more likely to eat what they produce as they see the rewards of their play. If you’re new to gardening, don’t worry — several plants are resilient to even the most novice of gardeners.
Getting your kids to eat a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t have to be a battle. By making eating fun and active, your days of having to negotiate with your child to eat their vegetables are over. Whether you try letting them experience what adults eat, play with their food, teach them to shop and cook, garden, or all of the above, you’re likely to produce a child who will not only eat their vegetables but do so willingly.
Thank you to our guest blogger, Clara Beaufort. Clara is a retired business owner, who currently works in community gardening. She operates GardenerGigs, which aims to connect local gardeners with those who need them.
Photo Credit: Unsplash