When you were a kid, you probably weren’t the model eater. You pushed your broccoli and carrots around the plate, waiting to be dismissed from the table. Now, the dinner tables have turned. Your youngsters aren’t as interested in the leafy green stuff, and you may have a hard time convincing them that vegetables are delicious and necessary for a healthy diet.
Picky eaters may not initially be open to many vegetables, but you’re bound to find at least a few that will help your child join the clean plate club. Changing your approach to cooking and eating, as well as discussing the importance of nutrition, can play important roles in expanding your children’s palettes and fortifying their bodies.
Avoid the “Lie and Hide Approach”
Many parents utilize the approach of hiding vegetables in meals and hoping their children don’t notice. This might help to sneak a few vegetables into your child’s diet, but it isn’t teaching them anything. You need a more sustainable message. You won’t be able to creep through the back door of their adult home to stealthily hide cauliflower in their tater tots. Avoid sending the message that vegetables aren’t necessary by making them invisible.
Disguising vegetables may be a valuable option for toddlers who don’t yet have the conversational and reasoning skills to open up a dialog about the importance of a healthy diet. Explain why vitamins and minerals are necessary for their growing bodies. School aged children are ready to learn about making healthy choices. They can even play a role in preparing healthy meals for the whole family.
Be honest about the consequences of poor nutrition. Explain obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol to your children. Tell them that an unhealthy diet can set them up for an unhealthy future. But make sure to explain the art of moderation. It’s important to teach balance instead of restriction.
You don’t want to make your children terrified of cake. You just want them to understand that the lavish desserts they love are best saved for holidays and special occasions, and that chicken nuggets are better on days where everyone has had a lot of exercise. They need to know that there’s a place for every food and an appropriate serving size for everything, but the majority of their diet should be healthy.
Grow Some Veggies Together
Giving an allowance for the completion of household chores is supposed to be an easy way to teach children to appreciate the value of money. They understand the effort it takes to get money and develop a healthy foundation for making and spending that money. You can do the same thing with vegetables.
All you need is a small plot in the backyard to grow some vegetables. Green beans, cherry tomatoes, carrots, radishes, and herbs are all easy for beginners to grow. Pick up some garden soil, a watering can, and a few packs of seeds. If you don’t have a yard, choose herbs or smaller vegetable plants that can be grown indoors by a window.
Gardening is a healthy activity. It takes kids away from their screens, encouraging them to be active. It inspires curiosity, and provides you with ample opportunities to teach them life lessons. How does a seed become a plant? Why do things grow in the dirt? How does the water cycle work, and how does it impact gardening or farming? There are many valuable conversations to be had and bonding moments to be shared over a family garden.
When your child helds to raise vegetables from seeds, they may develop a new appreciation for them. They helped to create that plant. They’ll want to know what it tastes like and how to use it. They’ll develop a strong appreciation for where vegetables come from and what it takes to cultivate them.
Get Your Child Cooking
Children are proud of the things that they make. The gallery of finger paintings and collages in your hallway is proof of that. Teach them to cook with the vegetables and herbs they helped to grow. This adds another important layer to the lesson. They understand where their food comes from. Now they get to learn how to prepare it as part of a nutritious meal.
It’s black bean taco night. Your children can help to season the beans, roast the peppers and onions, and mix the tomatoes, onions, and cilantro into pico de gallo. They can mash the avocados and squeeze some lime juice into the guacamole. They can assemble their own very healthy plant packed taco from all of the ingredients they helped to cultivate and prepare.
This will give you a chance to explain balanced meals and plant based foods to your children. Lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables should be the backbone of your child’s diet. Teach them about the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need to keep their bodies healthy. Explain to them how vegetables have their best interest in mind, and show them how delicious vegetables can be when prepared with a meal.
Incorporate Vegetables With Subtle Swaps
Picture a plate of raw vegetables in your head. It doesn’t look particularly appealing. Kids will be the harshest critics. If the vegetables actually taste good, they’ll be more receptive to getting a few extra servings a day.
If you’re looking to expand your child’s diet, some healthy swaps will go a long way. Try replacing ⅓ of your spaghetti with zucchini noodles, blending them together. Sweeten your homemade tomato sauce with julienned carrots instead of sugar. It may sound strange, but it’s actually an authentic way to prepare marinara.
Try blending vegetables into meatloaf or burger patties. Bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes will blend well into the meat mixture, adding nutrition and boosting the flavor profile. Substituting rice for riced cauliflower is easy. Most riced cauliflower only needs to be microwaved. It’s even simpler than preparing rice from scratch.
You can also prepare meals that are naturally vegetable based and serve them with flavorful sauces. Stir fry is a great way to use up a lot of vegetables. Serve it with a mild orange based stir fry sauce to incorporate some fruit. Soups, stews, and casseroles leave plenty of room for extra vegetables. Stop treating vegetables like a side dish and start treating them like part of a meal. Their presence will become expected and welcome.
Allow Your Child to Dabble
Encourage your child to try as many vegetables as possible at least once. Out of the whole produce section, there’s bound to be a handful that you won’t hear any complaints about. Let them try the vegetables prepared in different ways. You might find that your child likes mashed turnips, baked rutabaga fries, dehydrated beet chips, or little cocktail onions. Their dislike of a vegetable in its raw or boiled form doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t enjoy it in another way.
It also helps to introduce some healthy condiments. You might have an easier time getting your child to eat vegetables dipped in light yogurt mixed with a sprinkle of powdered peanut butter. Maybe your child will like hummus, or tzatziki sauce, or a particular variety of light salad dressing.
The best part of the exploratory approach is that you’re teaching children to be creative and explore things from different angles, rather than giving up and deciding that something isn’t for them. This can be a valuable life skill that helps them solve problems. They’re discovering their own tastes and learning how to make things for work them.
This might lead to some strange concoctions. Peanut butter lima beans may not appeal to you, but if it keeps your child interested in trying healthy new foods, it might be best to roll with it.
You won’t win them over with every vegetable - at least not at first. Many children are picky eaters, and it’s only natural that they’re slow to adapt. Just keep engaging their natural curiosity and giving them new angles to explore healthy foods from.
Hiya’s Kids Multivtamin is perfect for picky eaters and new culinary explorers who have not yet grown to appreciate horseradish or brussel sprouts. Hiya is formulated by pediatricians and designed to provide the 15 vitamins and nutrients your child needs to support growth, development, and immunity. Unlike other multivitamins, Hiya is formulated without sugar or gummy junk. They’re naturally sweetened with monk fruit and made of the fruits and vegetables your choosy child might otherwise refuse to eat.