Struggling to get your kid to eat their veggies? Read on for some tips to end the daily struggle, and a Free Printable Kids Food Review Sheet
I swear it's something that almost all parents struggle with. Now don't get me wrong, I've too heard the rumors that there are children who not only compliantly eat vegetables, but actually love doing so. Maybe there is a mom in your playgroup bragging that their child only likes rutabagas and kale chips, or your mother-in-law swearing that her son always finished his peas (while you internally roll your eyes because you know that your husband would never actually eat peas). But either way, you know if your child eats one more chicken nugget you will win the Guilty Mother of the Year Award.
So what is a well intentioned parent to do? I've gathered some tips on how to successfully get kids to eat healthy stuff without arguing, bribing, or losing your mind.
1. Don't be Afraid of Flavor
This is something that I've never understood about commercial baby food. Babies and kids have taste buds, too! So why are all of the commercial baby foods made without any seasonings? Can't get your kid to eat sweet potatoes? Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Kid won't eat green beans? How about adding some fresh chopped garlic, butter, and a little salt? Your little darling turns up her nose at celery but loves Flamin' Hot Cheetos? (no judgement here!) Have her dip it in some spicy ranch! Kids deserve to love the flavors of their food, too. Try out different herbs and spices until you find out what works for your family.
2. Get Kids in the Kitchen
This is important on many levels. It is not only crucial that children learn to cook so they can make their own healthy meals as adults, but it also helps them contribute to the day to day tasks of running a household. It shows them that it is important that they help out and makes them feel like an integral part of the family. The more kids are included in the cooking, the more pride they will have in themselves and they will be more likely to try out the foods they helped prepare. Have a preschooler toss a salad, stir ingredients (not hot!) in a mixing bowl, or help set the table. Older kids can do even more in the kitchen with supervision, and babies can watch you cook while in a highchair. Make sure to talk to them about the colors, flavors, and names of the foods as you prepare them.
3. Life is a Garden
So this one takes a little more commitment, but it goes hand in hand with the kids in the kitchen tip above. Kids can take pride in things they create, whether that be a recipe, or a plant. If you happen to have a vegetable garden, and your child can help you tend to it by watering or weeding, let them help out. Seeing a vegetable grow from seedling to full fledged vegetable is a great learning experience, and may help to encourage kids to try a new veggie as well. Don't have the time or room for a garden? Try planting a fruit or vegetable in a pot either indoors or on a balcony. Some good ones to try in a planter are avocados, carrots, and tomato.
4. The Power of Choice
This one will work well for all but the most stubborn kids, trust me I know from experience! Kids like to feel empowered to make their own decisions, so give them calculated choices. "Would you like creamed spinach, or steamed broccoli for dinner tonight?" Or while at the store, "Do you think we should try this asparagus, or this zucchini?". Letting them feel like they are in control of what they eat can encourage them to try new foods. If they feel like they already made the decision to eat it, they may have no qualms at all about eating that asparagus!
5. Try, Try, Again
Sometimes it's the unfamiliarity of a food that makes picky eaters turn up their noses. Don't be discouraged if your little one turns up his nose the first, second, or even third time you serve him steamed carrots. He may get used to seeing the same dish on the table week after week, and be more comfortable giving it a try.
6. Lead by Example
It is sometimes hard to believe, but our kids are always watching and learning from us, and it's hard to expect them to eat a side of snowpeas when we aren't willing to eat them ourselves. Emphasize the importance of eating healthy foods, and then incorporate them in your own diet. It is just as important for you to eat those veggies as it is your children!
7. Make it a Game
When I was trying to get my school aged daughter to try new vegetables, I created a little Food Review Sheet on a slip of paper and packed it in her lunch with a small golf pencil. I encouraged her to review the new foods I was putting in her lunch by rating them from 1 to 5. Then I added a small space for her to leave a comment for feedback. She got a kick out of reviewing the foods, and while she didn't always like them, it did get her to actually try the veggies. I've included a free printable download here of the Food Review Sheet. Let me know how it works for you!
8. Make it Fun!
I've seen great success while using the Constructive Eating Sets because they make eating veggies fun! We have both the Construction and the Garden Fairy tableware available in our store. The Plates were created to be used with the specially designed utensils. The Construction Plate includes spaces for the Fork Lift Fork, Front Loader Spoon, and a unique Bull Dozer Pusher to load the food onto the other utensils. The Garden Fairy Plate includes spaces for the Garden Rake Fork, Garden Shovel Spoon, and a unique Garden Hoe Pusher to load the food onto the other utensils. The Plates, Utensils, and Placemats are all made in the USA and BPA, PVC, phthalate and lead free, so they are as safe as they are fun!