The battle to get children to eat their vegetables is as old as time itself, but for every family, it is a battle that is important to win. Teaching your children to eat healthy early on, and instilling in them a genuine fondness for the flavours will set them on the path of a good diet for life. To help you accomplish this all-important mission, we have laid out several ways to encourage your children to eat their vegetables.
Lead by Example
One of the most influential factors on a person’s diet is the food they grew up with. While there will always be a few food items that people have an inherent like or dislike for, we tend to copy what we see our family members do. If your kids see that you regularly eat your vegetables, it will be easier for them to adopt that behaviour.
Let Them Help
Most kids love making anything they can, and food is no exception. It’s true that they’d probably prefer to make muffins or cookies, but most kids will happily help out with dinner too, if they’re allowed. This means they’ll be proud of what they made, and less willing to waste it. This will also get them used to the idea of making their own meals, rather than relying on frozen food or take-aways in later life.
Although even referring to something as a vegetable makes most children take an instant dislike to it, you have to remember that different people do have different tastes, sometimes literally. A study by Cornwall College found that people who carry a certain gene may actually taste brussel sprouts as bitter, meaning that you and your child could be tasting the same food differently. By offering them plenty of choices, you can figure out which vegetables they’re more willing to negotiate with, and which are completely off the table.
An old parenting technique is to tell your child that they’re not leaving the table until the plate is clear. Plenty of people will swear by this method, but all it does is cause negative reinforcement and a desire to rebel out of resentment. A more effective technique is to make them try at least one bite, and then leave it. After doing this a few times, your child will start to get used to the taste, but won’t have the desire to rebel against you out of principle.
Jazz Things Up
The main point of eating vegetables is to be healthy, but it’s not a bad idea to be a little counterintuitive in the short term in order to achieve long term gains. Putting butter on the vegetables is an easy way to make most children more receptive to them, and gives them time to get used to the flavour and texture. As time goes on, they will start to enjoy the food without the need for butter, and you can rest assured that they will feel the health benefits from that point on.
It can be exhausting to try and convince your kids to eat something they don’t want to after a long day, so hopefully some of these tips will make that a little bit easier. Just remember that whatever lessons they learn will be carried with them for the rest of their life, so as tiring as it may be, don’t give up.