By Rima Mehta, Nutrition Edu/RYT and owner of The Easy Nutrition, in Chandler, Arizona
As parents, we face many challenges with raising kids, and one of the greatest challenges is getting our kids to eat their veggies.
Vegetables provide so many vitamins and nutrients that are important for our children’s development. The early years are when you give your child a foundation for establishing a proper diet. If kids learn about the importance of eating healthy early in their lives, they will not have to relearn as an adult. And, we all know how hard it is to retrain a healthy diet as adults if that is not one that we are used to eating.
Try these tips that have worked for many of the moms the moms I know. Core to the advice below is “Monkey See, Monkey do” – sounds like a game and that’s just fine. Children imitate their parents. If they see you eating healthy, they’ll be more apt to follow your example.
Get your children involved – Allow your children to help with the meal preparation. Little ones can help in the kitchen too. The younger siblings can scrub the potatoes or carrots, for example.
Have some fun – Let’s face it, if it’s boring to look at kids will probably not like it. Have some fun and play. Create faces with your vegetables on a paper plate and let your children ‘play’ with their food, creating different faces by switching vegetables around. Yes, for the first time, letting your kids play with their food might be a good thing.
Try to focus on the sweeter ‘good for you’ foods – Select foods like strawberries, mandarin oranges, cherries, tomatoes, sweet peas, and corn. Also, kids love sauces and love to dip their food in them. Make the sauces available, such as ranch, ketchup, honey mustard and create your own too.
Crunchy vs. Soft – Many times it’s not the vegetable itself that is not appealing to the child but the texture or consistency. Some kids don’t like mushy vegetables and there are some that don’t like the crunchiness of raw vegetables. Find out what suits your children and try to provide textures that appeal to their palate.
Make smoothies – Smoothies are made with fruit; but try a ‘green smoothie’. You can add spinach, kale, romaine lettuce along with fruits to sweeten and they will get loads of vitamins.
No separate meals – It’s easy to resort to feeding your little ones the foods they will eat just to make sure they are eating something. Make the same meal for everyone – unless, your child has certain allergies.
Don’t force the issue – We’ve all heard the term, ‘choose your battles wisely.’ But also find ways to teach about good food. If you turn it into an entertaining learning experience (for example, growing a few vegetables or herbs with them), it may end up never becoming a battle.
Consistency is key – just as it is needed in everyday life, it also applies to healthy eating. Don’t give up, and continue to offer different foods to your children.
Sometimes a battle with kids and vegetable eating can be tiresome and stressful, making it tempting to give up. Yes, children can be stubborn, but eventually they will come around and in the long run they might even thank you for sticking to your guns on this issue. Even if they don’t come out and say it, their body and health will definitely thank you.
Editor’s Note: Rima Mehta is a nutrition educator, registered yoga trainer and writes about health and nutrition. To contact Rima, call 480. 326.0138, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
To connect with her online go to http://www.facebook.com/natruallyhealthy
- Potatoes Pack a Powerful Punch in the School Lunch Debate (fillyourplate.org)