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If you're a parent, this experience may be familiar to you:
You introduced vegetables into your baby’s diet before sweets and placed healthy foods in front of your toddler for every meal. They not only ate their veggies — they seemed to like them. You thought you had this, but suddenly your school-aged child refuses to eat his veggies. And to further complicate matters, he can now make his own selections at school.
You may feel alone in this healthy-eating struggle, but take heart: what we’ve just described happens with almost every child. The good news is that although it will take some creativity and planning, you can get your child to like veggies — and eat healthy — again.
Be a Positive Role Model for Good Nutrition
The most important way to get your kids to eat more vegetables is for you to learn to prepare them in different ways and eat more of them yourself. Keep things like baby carrots, celery and olives in the fridge for snacks. Include sliced cheese for an added boost of protein and calcium.
If you find yourself constantly sneaking vegetables into your kids’ meals, it may eventually backfire when they realize they've been tricked! Be upfront about the ingredients in your meals and promote them proudly.
Veggies Every Day
You can get pre-washed greens of all types at the grocery store. Let your kids pick which varieties they want and when you get home, store them in plain sight in the refrigerator. Consider calling this “the snack drawer” and creating rules around snacks that are okay to select without permission between meals. In addition to raw veggies and the traditional dips, it can be fun to show them the countless ways to dress a salad.
Take Your Kids Grocery Shopping
Take the kids on your next grocery trip and head for the fresh produce. Explain why it’s healthiest to shop the outside perimeter of the store and to avoid the cookie, candy and potato chip aisles. As you shop, talk about different vegetables. You could:
- Discuss which can be eaten raw
- Explain how to properly wash veggies and why that’s important
- Talk about different ways to prepare specific vegetables
- Teach how to recognize good quality produce
- Suggest new dishes
Throughout your shopping excursion, encourage your kids to ask questions and to select some veggies they’re interested in trying. Incorporating those into the family menu is sure to teach them to stay open to trying new things and to keep them interested.
Don’t forget to mention onions, garlic and ginger. They play an important supporting role in veggie (and other) recipes.
Use Spices to Enhance Flavor
If they’re old enough, let your kids help prepare your family’s meals. You might have them cook a vegetable they think they don’t like, and show them how a few extra ingredients can make all the difference. For instance, steamed broccoli is a non-starter for many kids. Showing the difference between, say, raw broccoli and properly cooked broccoli can really help. And then, adding some salt, pepper, a little olive oil and vinegar — or some parmesan cheese — can make it a totally different experience.
Try New Recipes
Be resourceful. Add new veggies — and try new recipes — often. Try vegetarian recipes for spaghetti, lasagna, chili, or other foods using vegetables instead of meat. Consider items you tend to buy ready-made at the grocery and attempt a homemade version. Take hummus, for example. It’s relatively easy to make, is healthier than store-bought and can make any sliced veggie more flavorful.
Keep Kids Involved
Your kids won’t love every veggie, but that’s OK. The more your kids are involved with choosing veggies and helping prepare them in ways they like, the more they’ll want to have veggies at every meal. That means you’ll also be eating more vegetables — and that’s a good thing for everyone.
Schedule a Dietitian Appointment
Our registered dietitians can help adults and children learn about foods to help them feel whole. If you need support teaching your kids about the importance of a well-balanced diet, consider requesting an appointment today.
This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment and/or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.