How to Get Your Child to Like Vegetables
The affect of vegetables on your child’s health can’t be underestimated. Leafy kale provides vitamins C. and K. that will help boost your baby’s immune system. Beta carotene in carrots improves your child’s vision. Avocados contain a lot of protein, which is needed for muscle growth and unsaturated fat which your baby needs for brain development.
Infants can eat softened or pureed veggies and they are unlikely to cause allergies or lead to digestive problems. In fact, vegetables are the second food babies should be introduced to after fruits and they need to be eating a balanced diet before you transition them from formula to cow’s milk at one year old. But that’s where the problem comes in.
Some children are very picky eaters and will spit and cry if you try to feed them vegetables. For these children, the dislike can last long after they are transitioned totally onto solid foods and into their preschool years. However, all is not lost. There are ways to get even the most picky of eaters to devour the veggies.
When I was a kid, I hated most vegetables. Just like most children, I only ate them when it was absolutely necessary. Even today, there are still vegetables I won’t eat. However, mothers and fathers, including mine, have come up with some ingenious ways to make veggies a lot more fun for even the most finicky children. If your child scrunches up their face every time you put a vegetable dish on the table, you are going to want to stay tuned. I’m going to explain several ways to entice your children to eat their vegetables and have fun while doing so.
Grow and Prepare Them Yourself
One of the best ways to get children to like vegetables is to help them plant a garden. Even if you’re in a city, a garden is not impossible. You could plant herbs in small pots and let your children help care for them.
If your child is curious how the plants in your garden grow, you can plant bean seeds in a sandwich baggie on wet paper towel. That way your child can study the root system and see what seeds look like as they sprout.
No matter what kind of garden you have, your child is much more likely to eat healthy foods if they had a hand in growing or preparing them, and even very small kids can participate. As soon as they have the coordination, they can help you snap green beans or pull carrots.
Set a Good Example
Make sure there are always healthy vegetables in your house. You could put out bowls of raw green beans as my mom did. Make sure that raw, fresh vegetables are easier to get to than chips and cookies, and snack on those veggies yourself. The best predictor of a kid’s eating habits is their parents. If you don’t eat vegetables yourself you can’t very well expect your children to like them.
Punishment Is Not the Answer
Don’t Punish your child for not eating vegetables. Punishment just creates negative associations, and a power struggle will develop.
Instead, work with them on finding vegetables they will eat.
Consider the way the vegetables are cooked. Are they plain and bland? If so, you might want to try cooking them in a different way or hiding them in casseroles, smoothies and any other dish where they’re not likely to be noticed. Experiment with other ways of preparing rejected vegetables. You could even make a dip for them or use a bit of your child’s favorite dressing.
The video above has a good, child-friendly recipe.
Make Mealtimes Fun
Does your child hate broccoli and love dinosaurs? Tell him that if he eats five miniature trees, he will outrun a bigger dinosaur. Make everything a game. Lettuce could be leaves in a forest. Mushrooms could be power-ups for video game lovers or secret royal food your princess must eat to grow up to be a great ruler. Use your imagination and your knowledge of the child’s favorite things to help you. After all, playing with your food a little is all right when it’s helping you eat more veggies.
One Bite Rule
For a child to like a food they have originally rejected, you must expose them to it eight or ten more times. For that reason, the one-bite rule comes into play. If your child doesn’t like something you’ve first served them, you must serve it to them again every week or so. Tell them they don’t have to eat it if they don’t like it but let them know they must at least try one solid bite of the food. After eight or ten times of this, children become familiar with the food, and usually rate it more favorably, though there will always be foods your child doesn’t like.
No Cleaning the Plate
If your child doesn’t like a certain vegetable after the one bite, don’t force them to continue eating it. Demanding they finish their plate won’t make them change their behavior. It’ll just make them feel bad and give them negative associations to whatever food it is they don’t like.
Also, children know when they’re full. Forcing them to finish their plates can lead to overeating and obesity.
Create Positive Associations
A good way to create positive associations for trying a rejected food is to reward the child when they try it. This works best if it isn’t a food-based reward. Stickers, small toys and outings are good ways to go. The child should realize that they got something special because they tried that food they don’t like. This has the effect of lowering their tendency to be picky in the future.
You could even create a goal chart. Every time they try a food they don’t like in the course of a week, you let them put a sticker on the chart. If they try five foods they don’t like in a week, then they get a special outing to a place they love.
Eat the Rainbow
Children don’t like their food clumped together in the center of the plate like most adults do. If you cook veggies separately, you can introduce a lot of color. Children adore colorful food.
Arranging the colorful veggies into the shape of a rainbow on the plate can also help. You can tell them that if they eat this rainbow, they’ll grow up to be big and strong.
Eating vegetables is very important for the health of our children. However, many children don’t like vegetables some or all of the time. Getting them to eat rejected foods doesn’t have to be a battle of wills, however. There are plenty of ways to make vegetables more fun and appealing.
No matter how you go about this important task, you have to lead first and foremost by example.
If you don’t like vegetables, you can’t expect your children to like them, seeing as children eat the foods they know and often model their eating habits on those of the grown-ups who influence their lives. Be patient and consistent, and some day they might just thank you for feeding them all that spinach.