The childhood years are when parents really can influence food choices, eating habits, and attitudes towards foods. So how can you get your kids to get more of the good stuff, like vegetables, in?!
- Children often prefer vegetables that are milder in taste, and so try finely dicing vegetables and put them in salads, soups, and stews. Blend or puree vegetables and add them to other foods. Put spinach in your berry smoothies, or add pureed broccoli to mashed potatoes. Try serving mild tasting carrots and peas.
- The new food fight: new foods can be intimidating. Try to encourage children to try a few bites before they decide if they don’t like a certain food. Offer small amounts of new foods instead of forcing an entire plate full. How do you deal with “picky” eaters?
- Children often eat less at meal times and snack on smaller amounts of food throughout the day. If this is the case for your child, try serving nutritious snacks to ensure they are getting a balance of nutrients. Cut up crunchy carrots and serve them with dips. Try diced apples with cinnamon for a snack. Have homemade granola bars on hand to get those whole grains in (try our chocolate puff squares from our Love Your Body Cookbook).
- Get kids involved in meal preparation. When I was young I thought that meals tasted special when I helped make them. Do you get your kids involved in meal planning?
- Monitor how much television they are watching. According to Sizer & Whitney, “children who watch (television) for more than four hours a day, or during meals, are least likely to eat fruits and vegetables, and most likely to be obese” (483). There appears to be a correlation between watching tv and snacking on unhealthy foods. Get your kids active, whether that means playing outside in the yard, at the park, or participating in a community activity or sport.
- Make breakfast a priority. With school starting again, kids need a nutritious breakfast to keep their energy levels up, to help them concentrate, and to support healthy growth and development. Breakfast is critical when it comes to academic performance, and so even if your child does not like eating in the morning, try to encourage them to drink a smoothie. Mix it up at breakfast (eggs, whole grain toast with nut butters, homemade muffins, fruit, granola, cereal, or oatmeal).
- Make food attractive: What are some creative ways you have figured out to serve food for your kids?
You parents other there can really help each other when it comes to ways you have encouraged your kids to eat healthy foods. Post your answers to these questions and start a discussion to help other moms and dads out there who might be struggling with getting their kids to eat veggies!