How to get kids to eat their veggies
Despite the fact that kids these days are growing up in a strange and new world, some things about parenting remain the same. Battling to get kids to eat their veggies is one of them. Try as you might, the words, “it’s good for you”, don’t seem to get through.
Luckily, there are other ways to come at the situation, and we’re going to share them with you! First things first, though.
What is it with kids and vegetables?
A popular view is that kids generally get the wrong type of motivation to eat vegetables. We say it’s great for their health, but, honestly, what does that mean to a child?
Taste counts! Child-friendly foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat give kids the burst of flavour they love so much. Veggies, on the other hand, don’t. So naturally, when they appear on the plate, children tend to go, “Uh-uh.”
No “uh-uh” zone
Kids need veggie power because eating them leads to good things!
- Vegetables contain lots of vitamins and minerals that are great for children’s growing bodies.
- They’re high in fibre, but low in fat and calories. Getting children to eat them rather than fatty fast foods can help avoid child obesity (which is sadly on the increase in South Africa.)
- Being high in fibre, they assist the digestive system.
So, how do you get kids to eat the good stuff?
Kids like colourful foods. Work with this advantage by adding colourful veggies to their plates. Remember to keep things separate, though, as unlike grownups, kids don’t like flavours to mingle together!
You can also design food into patterns on the plate. Unlike us adults who like to see food plated together near the centre of the plate, kids often like their meals around the perimetre. You could even try shaping food into smiley faces or hearts!
Kids are more interested in meals they’ve helped you to prepare. So, take them shopping with you and let them pick one or two of their favourite veggies for supper. You could also start a small vegetable garden with them, get them to clean or peal the ingredients, or set the table ahead of meals.
The one bite rule:
Experts say that if children reject a certain type of food, you need to expose them to it at least 8 times before they change their minds. So, regularly get your kids to have one solid mouthful of food they don’t like. Negotiate if you have to! After enough time, they usually come around.
Don’t force kids to finish:
One bite of something is enough until your children warm up to foods they’ve rejected. Forcing them to eat something they don’t like will only create a negative association with the food in question. Ultimately, that will be harder to undo.
If you eat veggies, so will your kids. For the most part, kids eat what they know, and won’t ask for special meals if they don’t know they have the option. Lead by example with the healthy foods. It certainly won’t do you any harm!