“Eat your vegetables!” has been a mom mantra for decades. Your mom likely said it to you and you may be hearing yourself saying it now. It often seems as if vegetables and kids are like oil and water, especially now that there are so many food-like products on the market even convenient foods that claim to be ‘veggie’ chips! However, with a little creativity and some nifty tips from our very own MLBBC instructor moms, Ashley Davis and Kim Certa, getting your kids to eat real veggies maybe easier than you think.
First off, let’s talk a little anatomy. On average, children have about twice as many taste buds as adults, so flavors are naturally amplified. In addition to this, we are born with a propensity towards sweet and a dislike for bitter tastes. Since many vegetables tend towards a bitter taste, no wonder kids don’t automatically like vegetables, right? But wait! Before you pull out those extreme veggie-eating tricks like standing on your head, bribery, or using something like a sweet treat as a reward for any downed vegetable, take a look at these ideas from our MLBBC instructor moms:
Ashley is mom to Naomi – 7 and Samuel – 6
We started our kids eating vegetables right away when they were babies, so vegetables have always been a part of their food story. And as they got older, they have always seen Steve and me eating our veggies. I think modeling the behavior is so important. If I am not eating vegetables, why would they?
To keep it easy, one of the best thing we do at our house is to always have veggies ready to eat. Peppers, cucumbers, and baby carrots are cut up and ready in the fridge. I like to balance fruits along with the vegetables, so small apples and banana are also always ready to grab and go.
I also like to change up the way a veggie is served. Raw is convenient and great for when we are on the go, but for meal time I like to mix it up with roasted, steamed, or mashed. One kid may like it raw while the other will only eat the same veggie if it is cooked. By the way, both of my kids love to snack on frozen peas frozen but they will not eat them warm. It is something that we started when they were babies and now that is the only way they will eat them!
Kim is mom to Cole – 13, Josie – 10; Sophia – 7, and Bella – 4
One of the main reasons my family eats healthy is because I try to keep as many healthy snacks in our house as I can. Like Ashley, I like to have a balance of fruits and vegetables ready to grab and go, and I echo her advice regarding having them cut up. While it takes a little more time up front, making fresh options easy is key and is actually a time saver since I cut things up once and they are ready for the whole week. Along with fresh fruit and cut up veggies ready to go in the fridge, I have 4 baskets in our pantry filled with applesauce pouches, dried fruit snacks, organic fruit strips, and granola bars. They can grab any time they want. I don’t buy a lot of processed snacks, so if they want a snack, what is in the fridge or in the baskets are their only choices.
At meal time, I always try to give them choices about which fruit and vegetable they want. When Tony and I give them the power to choose between the options we have in the house, what they put on their plate becomes their decision. I have found that the autonomy of making their own decision – even if it is between broccoli or peas automatically makes them willing to eat it. My kids all have different tastes, so that is another reason it is important to me to make it their choice, I don’t want food to be an issue we fight about. For example, my son loves strawberries, but one of my daughters isn’t a big fan so I would never make strawberries only fruit option. I allow them to choose something they enjoy rather than forcing them to eat something they don’t like.
And one last thing that can help moms on the go, take baggies of cut up fresh fruit and veggies with you everywhere. I am a stay at home mom and I pick my kiddos up everyday after school. They are STARVING when they get in my van. I always bring a healthy snack for them to eat on the way home. It is usually a mix of grapes, apples, cut up strawberries, bananas, and some carrots, celery sticks and cherry tomatoes. They scarf it down!!!!! I also do this after practices, too. They will eat whatever I have in car because they have worked up such an appetite! It also keeps them from asking to stop somewhere to get something to eat. I see it as another easy opportunity to get a fruit or veggie into their day!
In addition to these awesome ideas, here are some more veggie strategies to keep your kids interested.
- Challenge your kiddos eat the rainbow of colors in fruits and vegetables everyday. When they eat 1-2 servings of each color every day they will be getting a full range of all the vitamins and minerals their growing bodies need. Use a fun chart like this one so they can see their progress Eat a RAINBOW Each Day
- Talk to your kids about the way the food they eat makes them feel. Encourage them to recognize how much more energy they have to play when they are eating the rainbow each day.
- Use healthy dips to keep fruits and veggies interesting. Using plain greek yogurt or blended cottage cheese as a wonderful creamy base is a great way to get them eating some protein and healthy fats too. Both make a great base to mix with protein powder for a sweet dip to go with fruit. Or mix in some dry ranch dressing powder for a savory veggie dip.
- Spiralized veggie noodles or ‘riced’ veggies are a great alternative to eating too many starchy sides, and with sauce on top, your kids will love them and not notice that they are eating veggies instead of traditional pasta or rice.
Try these Ideas and let us know what you do to encourage your kids to eat their veggies!!