Children don’t like vegetables; a well-grounded misconception that haunts modern moms on a daily basis. I have to admit that the bar has been raised, in terms of children’s dietary needs and wants, in comparison to earliest generations. Fifty years ago children would eat whatever was presented to them, especially vegetables and fruit, as families usually produced them. Meat was an expensive and rare luxury; so, there was no argument there. If you didn’t eat your vegetables, you didn’t eat at all.
Things have changed, indeed. Now there are so many options, too many options to be specific. Children are more difficult, more demanding and much more exposed to junk food and sweets, making efforts for a proper diet, impossible. So, what is the magic trick?
The answer is simple: there is no magic trick. When it comes to children, I believe that a direct, honest approach is crucial. Instead of using tricks, maybe try this few simple steps:
Go grocery shopping with your children.
Teach your children to pick the proper vegetables and fruit, allow them to touch and smell them and have them pick 4-5 vegetables they would like to eat during the week. Of course it is implied that you need to know your way around the “aisles” and set an example for your children
2. Get your children involved into cooking
Allow your children to be a part of the cooking process. Let them cut, mix, and season the food. Being part of the preparation is something that will make them proud and they are going to want to try their creations.
3. Season it UP a nudge.
Come on admit it. You HATE bland food, especially broccoli and carrots. Admit it, admit it admit it. There are so many new recipes out there for you to try. Tradition is good, but the main focus is to get your children to eat their greens. So, try different salads, add some homemade dressing, lemon juice, soy sauce, stir-fry your vegetables with some garlic and onion. In a nutshell, put some flavour in your food and while you are doing that have your little ones cut their vegetables into different shapes stars, hearts and anything that comes to mind.
4. Turn dinner into a family experience
Always sit at the table as a family and set an example by always including vegetables in the meal. Never give the option of a second dish as an alternative to vegetables. Apply the one bite rule : have your child at least try one bite of the food before dismissing it, and if they don’t like it don’t force them to eat it. Children do have taste buds and thus know what they like; if they reject one kind of vegetable, give them the choice of a different one (see example 1). Repeat procedure during a different meal for at least eight times, as we all know repetition is the most valuable conditioning tool to teach people habits and behaviours.
5. Imagination is the key to success.
Make up fun and creative stories to explain the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables. “You need to eat your broccoli because it is healthy and contains iron.” All your child is hearing is “you need to eat your broccoli blah blah blah,blah blah blah.” , you need to find ways to appeal to their understanding and gain their interest. A good example is making up interesting or funny stories about vegetables, i.e. generate an interesting plot in which the child is a dinosaur, build a forest of broccoli, use celery, raisins and peanut butter, as ants walking on a stick and other amusing scenarios; then have the dinosaur extinguish the forest in order to become stronger and bigger.
The big picture here is to make children understand the importance of including vegetables in their diet, on a daily basis. Habits develop over the years, and if you set a correct example, by explaining the need for vegetables and fruit and keeping away from bribing them with bad rewards to reinforce a good behaviour, your life will become much easier and that of your child’s much healthier; for the right reasons.