One thing many parents struggle with at one point or another is getting their kids to eat their vegetables. According to the USDA’s MyPlate food guidelines, everyone should aim to fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables. This means that half of the food we eat over the course of a day, kids included, should come from these groups. The guidelines also recommends including a variety of vegetables which provides the best access to a variety of nutrients.
As parents, we all want the best for our kids but how can we get them to eat more vegetables, try new vegetables, while avoiding complaints and tantrums? Here are four creative ways to fill your child’s plate with a variety of vegetables.
1. Put Them in Disguise
Disguise them – the vegetables, not your children. Incorporate vegetables into dishes your children like in ways that don’t make it obvious that there is a dreaded vegetable hiding inside. In some recipes, you can use baby food to increase the vegetable content of the meal without really changing the flavor or texture. You can also puree your own vegetables to get the same result. This works great for things like spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, creamy soups, and thick stews. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little too, like making lasagna with vegetable puree-infused sauce or using pureed vegetables to add moisture to purely meat and potatoes meatloaf.
2. Put Them in Control
Put your children, not the veggies, in control of picking out new vegetables to try or new ways to try vegetables. You can make a game out of it, letting each child choose something new each week and then having the family vote American Idol style for which item they liked best. The one with the lowest votes is discarded. You can take this a step further by getting your children involved and having them participate in shopping for and preparing the vegetable they have chosen for the week.
3. Change Your Style
Change the way you cook certain vegetables to see if how they are cooked makes a difference. Some kids only like raw carrots, while others may only like them cooked. A child who hates raw broccoli might like it steamed or sautéed with onions and garlic. Because people can be sensitive to the texture of food, simply changing how or if something is cooked may make all the difference in getting your child to enjoy eating something new.
4. Change Yourself
Make sure you are a good role model for your children. It will be hard to convince them how important it is to eat their vegetables if you are filling your plate with meat and rice and foregoing anything green. Children learn what they live. If you want them to embrace a variety of vegetables, give them a good example to follow. Parents can also participate in the “new vegetable” game and might be surprised to find new and interesting ways to eat vegetables they haven’t tried since childhood.
To learn more about eating vegetables, watch Arizona Farm Bureau’s “Let’s Eat” video that gives additional advice on how to get kids involved in the process of selecting for themselves vegetables they will eat.
- How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables (fillyourplate.org)