They may be the offspring of a nutritionist, but my kids are still kids. Just like every other kid (and most grown-ups too) they don’t think twice about eating sugary foods if offered to them, especially chocolates and sweets, and a bowl of chips wouldn’t last 5 minutes in front of my youngest.
But at mealtimes, they eat their vegetables, and they eat them well. There’s no fussing or refusing. I don’t dye them strange colours or cover them in cheese. And I certainly don’t have to force or bribe them to eat their vegetables. I let them choose from the fridge which vegetables I cook to go with a meal, but once they’re cooked and on the plate, there are no more choices. They either eat them or they go hungry (and they know better than to risk that!)
I make sure that the kids see me eating vegetables as often as possible. Breakfast (green smoothie, or leftovers), lunch (salad or steamed veg with fish), evening meal (always with two side portions of vegetables). Even when we go to restaurants, I’ll order a side salad or portion of vegetables to go with my meal, if I’m not already ordering a salad as my meal. But that isn’t enough – they need to see me embracing and enjoying vegetables (and I do!) – lot’s of “mmm… broccoli” and “these green beans are yummy” and so on.
If my kids eat something they’re not sure about, they will look at me with doubt in their eyes, and I make sure to take some of the same food and tell them how delicious it tastes to me. Their tastebuds are so young, almost a blank canvas, and as a parent I feel it is my responsibility to teach them to appreciate healthy food.
Think about behaviour and language – kids will always copy what they see or hear, especially if it’s negative. So let them see positivity and pleasure around healthy foods, and they’ll want to copy you. If I made a face and said “broccoli tastes of sweaty socks”, or “green beans are too squishy” then there’s no way they’d eat them, and why should I expect them to?
And that’s my secret to getting kids to eat their vegetables.
If you have any other ways that you’ve found that help with kids eating their vegetables, then please comment and share them with us – we’d love to hear them!