Getting kids to eat vegetables can be a daunting and frustrating task for parents. In a 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State University, it was found that 22% of children ages 2 to 5, 16% of kids 6 to 11 and 11% of kids 12 to 18 meet the government’s recommendation for daily vegetable consumption (it sounds like I say 6% on the video…but it is 16%). What’s worse, the kids who are getting in their veggies, almost 50% of their consumption is from fried potatoes (potato chips and french fries). Yikes!
Parents, I feel your pain. I share on FOX some tips you can hopefully use to get your little ones eating their veggies (and liking it too). For more info and tips, look below the video!
- Make it fun! Be creative and appeal to your child’s personality and interests. Kids love descriptive words like “yummy” or “gooey.” Use names or phrases for vegetables that are more fun such as Bunny Sticks (carr0ts) or Leprechaun Trees (broccoli). Use names too, such as Superman Spinach or Sammy’s Silly Salad. Also, feel free to play with your food by making it an artistic creation such as a salad that uses veggies as facial characteristics. The more fun you can make it, the more positive they’ll feel towards vegetables.
- Involve them: The more you involve your children in the process of preparing, cooking and serving food, the more they’ll be likely to eat it. Give kids a choice of recipes that include veggies. Take them shopping and show them how to pick produce. If they are very young, make a game out of matching colors with the vegetables and naming them. Get them in the kitchen and have them toss the salad, cut vegetables, and use the food processor (if they are old enough). If possible, even let them grow their own vegetables. It will be hard for them to turn down a vegetable that they grew, prepared or “made” themselves.
- Talk to them: Education and understanding what they like is paramount.
- Pick a vegetable each week. Discuss where it originates from, when it grows, ways to cook or eat it, its color and what nutrients it contains.
- What do they like? Find out what they like and what they don’t, and appeal to their personal tastes. Growing up, I hated cooked vegetables, but would eat raw veggies like crazy. This can make a big difference. Or, if they absolutely hate broccoli, don’t serve it to them. Instead, give them what they enjoy. Any vegetable is better than no vegetables at all.
- Sweet Things. Kids tend to appreciate sweeter vegetables such as carrots, peppers, snap-peas, cucumbers, celery and tomatoes, more than those that are bitterer.
- Institute the “no thank you bite” rule. To expand their tastes, have them try something once before saying no.
- Make it Part of Your Lifestyle:
- Lead by example. First and foremost, set an Example. If you don’t eat vegetables, kids won’t see why they should.
- Make it Easy. Make vegetables the easy snacking option. Don’t keep a lot of junk food in the house and load the fridge (at easy-accessible spots) with vegetables and fruit. Stock up on their favorites and cut up veggies for quick on the go snacking.
- Have a “veggie night” each week. Easy recipes that can be all vegetables include soups, brown-rice stir-fry, vegetable fajitas, veggie quesadillas and pizza. Also, make pasta sauces heavy on the vegetables. Embedding them into a dish will help mix textures and flavors together to get your children to focus less on the actual vegetables.
- Make them the New Chip: Use veggies instead of bread or chips. Dips and spreads, such as hummus, salsa, yogurt dips and nut butters all go well with carrots, celery and other crisp vegetables.