Though their bodies may be small, it’s no secret that children come with large personalities and big opinions. Those opinions can be especially strong when it comes to vegetables. Some kids can’t get enough, and others can’t get far enough away.
So, how do you help growing children not just eat but also enjoy their vegetables? There’s no secret formula, and at the end of the day, kids will be kids. But, there are things you can do to help children add healthy veggies to their diet, grow an appreciation for where their food comes from, and become more willing to try new foods each day.
(As always, we highly recommend onions.)
Learn Where Vegetables Come From
You can spark a child’s interest in vegetables by exploring how those beautiful veggies got onto their plate in the first place. Though you may have bought your produce at the grocery store, that isn’t where it came from. Here are a few ideas:
- Visit a local farmer, and tour their fields
- Take a trip to your nearest farmer’s market and chat with the sellers about how they grow their produce
- Plant a garden with your children. Eating something you have grown together makes the food more exciting.
- Don’t have room for a garden? Try growing herbs or a small vegetable plant in a window sill or planter box.
Make New Foods Fun
Children love routines, so trying new things can feel daunting and even a bit scary. Make trying new foods an exciting, fun and low-pressure experience. Consider using a few of these strategies:
- Each time you go to the store, let your child pick one new vegetable to investigate. Plan several ways to prepare it.
- Select a “new food of the week” that the whole family tries each day.
- Conduct fun science experiments with healthy foods along with eating them.
- Make a “rainbow meal” using vegetables in every color of the rainbow.
- Explore which vegetables can be delicious additions to smoothies, jellos, jellies, and more.
Delight Them with Dips
A dip can be a great way to encourage snacking on vegetables. Kids love to dip things in sauces, and the flavors of a dip can hide or mellow out the unfamiliar flavors in a new veggie. But, encourage your child to try a variety of dips and sauces. Ranch addiction is real, especially in young people. Introduce other low fat dressings, homemade vinaigrettes, and fun sauces like melted cheese fondue.
Prepare Things Together
There is more than one way to eat a vegetable. Make it a game to see how many different preparations for a veggie you can come up with, and then cook, roast, grill, puree, and chop together with your children. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Use vegetables to make your own stock for soup.
- Substitute vegetables like zucchini for noodles in pasta or lasagna dishes.
- Finely chop vegetables to add to breads and pizza crusts.
- Blend veggies into a smoothie, or juice them in a juicer.
- Cook up a vegetable omelette.
- Get creative with your favorite casserole.
- Experiment with savory oatmeal.
Include Children in Meal Planning
The most important part of teaching children to love vegetables is letting them choose whether or not they will. Create a safe place for children to like what they like and dislike what they dislike. By making it ok not to like something when they try it, your kids will be more likely to keep on trying. If they try, they are bound to find something they enjoy.
Remember, children’s palates are still developing. Try mild flavors like carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce for younger eaters and slowly work your way up to stronger flavors. Include children in your meal planning, and respect their feedback.
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