If you’re a parent, chances are you’ll end up facing the age-old battle: trying to get kids to eat vegetables. Vegetables are high in fibre, low in calories and rich in nutrients like vitamins A, C and potassium. They’re also packed with antioxidants that benefit the immune system, and they have fibre for energy and stabilising blood sugar. It’s important therefore for children to eat at least three portions a day.
If your child keeps reaching for chocolate and crisps instead of carrots and celery sticks, don’t despair. The good news is there are simple tricks which will change your children’s eating habits and make them enjoy healthy eating.
Here are five top ways to get kids to eat vegetables:
- Break Out the Veggies First
Getting the timing right is one of the simplest ways to get kids to eat vegetables. A small change in when you serve them up is sometimes all you need to increase their veggie consumption. For instance, one study showed that by moving break time to before lunch, children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables increased by 50 percent.
So, what can you do? As a general rule, try and make fruit and vegetables available in your kitchen for snacks after the children get home from school. Additionally, about an hour before dinner (just as they are starting to get hungry), cut up some carrots, peppers and tomatoes and serve them out on the table. Suddenly they’ll swarm around the snacks.
- Try Theme Nights
Start your own meat-free Monday! Embracing healthy habits on Mondays can help set a pattern of healthy behaviours for the week ahead. Theme nights — Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Falafel Friday, for some ideas — are the perfect opportunity to load up on veggies and encourage healthy eating. You could make bean and cheese tacos stuffed with veggies, pasta with lots of colourful vegetables, falafel wraps with hummus and dipping veggies — the options are endless!
- Get the Children Involved
When you cook and eat together as a family, your children will be more excited to eat something they helped create. When children cook, they’re more likely to eat new foods. For a simple meal, start with store-bought pizza dough, and have the children add sauce, cheese and a variety of veggies.
- Experiment With New Vegetables
You can mix up your family’s normal vegetable routine by eating seasonal veg. They taste better and are less expensive. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Take your regular mashed potatoes, and swap out the potatoes for mashed cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots or squash. Roasting the vegetables is also a good idea as this adds flavour and sweetness. You can also add some fun to everyday veggies by adding a twist of colour — purple, white and yellow carrots; green, purple and orange heirloom tomatoes; and brightly coloured mini-bell peppers. Roasted carrots, yams and parsnips are also a colourful alternative to chips.
- Eat Together
Families should eat together as often as possible and not let children rush away as soon as they’re done. Having children stay at the table a little longer to talk will make it so that the vegetables don’t have to compete with video games. Plus, when your children see you starting with salad and piling on the veggies, they’re more inclined to do the same.