How to get your child to eat more veggies
Certain foods can become boring for kids, and vegetables certainly seem to fall into this category. There is also a social stigma attached – my kids loved broccoli until they went to school and found out that other kids hated broccoli.
There are a lot of ways that you can get your kids excited about vegetables though, or if it comes to it, to simply trick them into eating them! Different ideas will work for different ages, so make sure you use age-appropriate techniques. Here are a few of our favourites:
Have “design your own” nights
Children love to be in control (or at least, to FEEL like they’re in control) of their food choices. By having a “design your own” night – whether it’s pizza, burgers, sandwiches or nachos – you can offer them heaps of healthy options and they can choose what they include.
Challenge them to include as many colours as they can, or to make a silly face shape and they will forget all about the veggies they’re eating! You might even be able to trick them with some wholemeal bread.
Get their help with the grocery shop
Take it one step further by getting them to help pick out fruit and vegetables at the supermarket. Show them the entire range of vegetables available and get them to pick out one new one. (Chances are high they will choose something really weird and wonderful that you have no idea how to cook, but just go with it.)
Serve it up that night for dinner and see how it goes. Don’t force it though, getting kids to eat a range of foods is about the offering: just offer something new every now and then with no obligation.
While we are on the topic of shopping, get behind our local food producers and find where your nearest markets are. Market expeditions are a great way to show your kids where food comes from and a great morning out with the family.
Grow a veggie patch
If your kids show a lot of interest at the supermarket or market, you might want to start a veggie patch together. You will be amazed at what they will eat, straight out of the ground, if they have had a hand in growing it themselves.
Hide the veggies
If your child just won’t go near anything vegetable-related no matter how hard you try, then it might be a matter of hiding the veggies wherever you can.
This means pureeing or chopping a vegetable to within an inch of its life so that it is no longer recognisable as a vegetable and then hiding it in foods your child likes to eat. Pasta and pizza sauces are great for this, as are fritters.
Why not try a savoury muffin and sneak in an extra vegetable serving into their lunch box. Let’s be honest, kids aren’t the only ones – adults can benefit from some hidden vegetables – I’m definitely guilty of this!
You can also hide the veggies in plain sight – make silly faces, cats, trucks, ladybirds or The Very Hungry Caterpillar and you might just distract them long enough to get through some vegetables.
Finger food for tots
If it’s a Toddler that you’re grappling with, you are basically facing a power-hungry tyrant. To defeat them, you need to make them think they are still in control; finger foods give them that illusion.
Give up the spoon-as-aeroplane trick and let them throw their food on the floor and feed themselves.
Dig into some dips
Children will be much more likely to eat raw veggies if they have something to dip them into. You can use hummus, a yoghurt dip, soy sauce, even apple sauce. Good dipping veggies include mushrooms, red capsicum and carrots (steamed for toddlers).
Sometimes, it just takes someone else to suggest a new vegetable or fruit and your child will suddenly be Miss Congeniality. If you’re lucky enough to get a break, ask whoever is babysitting to offer them something new, not by force, just by ‘warm suggestion.’
Lead by example
Lastly, you can’t expect your kids to eat healthy if you don’t. If you are drinking soft drink for breakfast and having takeout most nights then it is going to be pretty difficult for your children to eat healthy.