Getting your little one to eat vegetables can be a challenge, especially when there is a delicious apple, tasty banana or juicy berries to consume instead. Paediatric Nutritionist, Mandy Sacher shares 6 simple strategies for getting your little one snacking and chomping on their vegetables at mealtimes.
1. Make Smoothies
Smoothies are a fantastic way to boost their veggie intake, alongside other nutritious food groups like protein and healthy fats. Adding some beets, carrots, a handful of spinach along with the fruit, some coconut milk, yogurt and chia seeds will increase the nutritional content substantially. Making smoothies is also a great way to encourage children to be involved in the kitchen!
Expert tip Freeze any leftovers into popsicle moulds for a popsicle re-feature on another day.
2. Get cooking with your kids.
Children learn through play and experience and there’s no better way to expand a child’s repertoire than by cooking delicious meals together. Not only is it fun and engaging for children, but it’s also an excellent way to combine play with the daily routine of meals.
Children also learn to accept new foods through role-modelling, repetition, and exposure and there’s no better way to expose children to a variety of ingredients than by choosing a recipe that you and your child would like to prepare together. Children love to eat what they have helped to make.
3. Grow your own, or visit a local community garden.
Exposing children to the concept of earth-to-table is a great way for them to become engaged in eating more veggies. But don’t worry, you don’t have to have a huge plot of land to grow your own veggies – often a windowsill, patio or balcony will be ample space to sprout herbs, strawberries or even tomatoes. Involving children every step of the way, from choosing what to grow, to packing the soil, to watering, weeding, and picking will do wonders.
4. Use your imagination and embrace creativity.
Get creative with serving fruit and veggies alongside each other in the form of simple shapes, perhaps even with a storyline or theme. With a few simple cuts of the knife, you can turn an apple into a dinosaur with celery spikes that your child will munch down in minutes. Allow your child to make pictures on a plate from blueberries, carrot sticks, grapes, cucumber slices, slices of strawberry and some celery.
Expert tip Make vibrant fruit and veggie skewers, allowing your child to create these themselves from a selection of different fruit and vegetables!
5. Make veggies readily available.
Keeping cut up slices of vegetables in the fridge at eye-level serves as a powerful desensitiser and prompt for both children and adults at snack time. What the eyes see, the tummy wants – so by removing less desirable snack elements from both the fridge and the pantry, it will be easier to make healthy choices.
Exposing children to a diverse range of vegetables and allowing them to learn to expect vegetables at snack and mealtime is important. Including vegetables in the daily lunchbox and ensuring that adults model positive healthy eating habits at family meals also go a long way towards making progress.
6. Manage your own expectations.
Rather than getting into a power struggle over veggies, try to ensure that the emotional environment at mealtimes is positive. Often, simply giving your child their veggies and acting as if you don’t mind whether they eat them or not can work well.
Let your child decide whether everyone will have green beans or broccoli tonight. Simple choices help them feel a sense of control and encourage them to enjoy the meal. Another easy choice your child can make is, “Would you like your sweet potato mashed, baked or cut into chips?”
Don’t forget to praise your child for trying small amounts of new veggies. Over time, continuing to do this will lead to familiarity with the new vegetables and a greater desire to eat them. Discuss the health benefits of eating veggies with older children in a fun and engaging way – try and avoid lecturing them and don’t forget to mention that they’re delicious too!
Persistence, perseverance, and patience are all key elements in encouraging more veggies in your child’s diet. It’s definitely an ongoing challenge but it’s so important and worthwhile for their lifelong health and well-being.