I scream. You scream. We all scream for … vegetables? Your kids may never beg for vegetables the way they do for ice cream, but these 7 tips will get them eating more vegetables – and possibly asking for seconds.
Virtua clinical dietitian Katalin Russek, MS, RD, has more than 20 years of experience teaching nutrition to families, including her own. She encourages kids, and adults alike, to fill half of their plates with fruits and vegetables at every meal. (ChooseMyPlate.gov)
“With rising obesity rates, it’s more important than ever to replace high-calorie, processed foods with fresh veggies. They have fewer calories and contain the vitamins, minerals and fiber kids’ growing bodies need,” says Russek.
Seem impossible that your kids would ever ask for seconds? Not with these 7 tips from Russek.
Introduce in infancy
As soon as your pediatrician gives you the green light, begin feeding your baby pureed vegetables. The earlier babies are introduced to vegetables, the more likely they are to continue to eat them into childhood and adulthood.
Involve the kids
Kids are more likely to eat their veggies if they feel a personal connection to them. Here’s how to make that connection:
- Allow your kids to help plant a vegetable garden.
- Ask your kids to pick out vegetables at the supermarket or farmer’s market.
- Take a family-fun outing to a farm where you can pick your own vegetables.
It’s harder for them to say no when they’ve been included in the decision-making process.
Make it look appealing
Kids eat with their eyes. If something is visually appealing, it’s more likely to attract young eaters. Change that boring plate from “Ewe!” to “Woo-hoo!” by adding grapes and carrot sticks. Cut them into creative shapes and/or arrange them in a fun way on the plate.
Choose fresh over canned
Choose fresh or flash-frozen vegetables over canned vegetables, which are packed with extra salt and preservatives. Plus, there’s something unappetizing about limp, grey green beans.
Add a little flavor
It’s okay to add a little parmesan cheese or ranch dressing to your veggies, but don’t drown out their natural goodness with fat and salt. You want your kids to enjoy the flavors of the healthy veggies, not the toppings you put on them.
Baking, grilling or lightly sautéing veggies with a little olive oil and seasonings is great but avoid deep frying. You’re not only adding a lot of unnecessary calories, you’re negating all the flavors and nutrients that make the veggies a worthwhile part of your diet.
Maybe the recipes you grew up with don’t WOW your kids. No worries! Now, there are millions of new ways to serve and enjoy veggies. For suggestions, check out the following websites:
Don’t worry if your kids don’t take to new veggies the first time you serve them. It actually takes 10 to 20 tastings of a new or unfamiliar food before kids will accept it or reject it.
Try different recipes or cooking methods, but don’t let kids reject something too quickly. They don’t have to clean their plate, but insist that they try 1 bite of everything.
Over time, they will develop an appreciation for a wide range of veggies, and they may even ask for seconds.