13 Ways to Get Veggies Into Your Kids
Just for the record, I have two children of my own and have cared for more than one hundred children in my time. Getting these little critters to eat their veggies makes us more crazy than we’d like to admit and strikes a chord in our memory every time of our parents making us eat mushy, canned green beans. So, I get this issue, I really do, and I have a few ideas to help you solve this every day issue.
1- Get your children involved in the production of their food via gardening, cooking, or helping to choose the menu for the week.
2- Take them along to the farmers market and allow them to choose 3 veggies each for the week.
3- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) so your whole family is exposed to new and more vegetables every week.
4- Add greens or carrot juice to your smoothies. Take a Aï¿½ cup of chopped, frozen spinach (or a leaf or two of fresh kale or spinach) and throw it into your strawberry- banana smoothie and blend until smooth.
5- Do the unforeseen: take the above spinach or kale, chop it and add to macaroni pasta water one minute before it’s done cooking and you’ll have wilted greens to mix into their mac’n’cheese.
6- Avoid making separate meals for separate little people at your kitchen the one bite per age rule (6 bites for a 6 year old, etc). Stick to the rule every day and don’t get attached to the response.
7- Season them…garlic/lemon, butter/sea salt, dill, rosemary, basil/olive oil, and sea kelp are all great options.
8- Don’t stop serving them. Ever.
9- Mash, puree, chop, and blanch your way to vegetable variety. What this means is don’t serve vegetables the same way every day/night.
10- Prepare a handful of different vegetables every week.
11- Always have veggie family favorites accessible and ready to go for snacking and start there before reaching for graham crackers or goldfish.
12- If you’re not already doing so, include a vegetable in your child’s lunch by taking out the cookie or fruit roll up and replacing it with a veggie. When the child whines, invite your child to request his/her own vegetable (maybe they choose 3 per week) for their lunch and trust that they are eating it. Once you have this routine down for a couple weeks, begin to include a healthy sweet again. The ownership for the child here is that they need to eat both items in their lunch.
13- Include a dip or spread for the vegetable such as hummus, a nut butter, cream cheese.
Perhaps the most important point here is that you have to model for your children the healthy habits you want them to have. If you turn up your nose at the display of mushrooms on your plate, so will your child. If you gag over the idea of sweet bell peppers, so will your child. If you quietly have your couple of bites, you have modeled the same and can then encourage the same few bites of your child. If you are eating a bowl of plain Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese for lunch and serve theirs with a green stirred in, you have just handed them an invitation to complain and that defeats the purpose of trying. Be the change for your children and know their taste preferences will come and go as they grow. Be a consistent model of healthy eating for them and they will become empowered to make their own healthy food choices as they grow more comfortable with the variety offered.