I look down at the empty dishes after dinner. Meat all gone. Potatoes all gone. Lovely tasty, green beans left lying untouched on the plate. At times, I despair. I spend SO much time thinking of ingenious ways to get my kids to eat healthily. And here we have it, veggies left untouched, unloved, uneaten. How am I supposed to get them to eat the healthy vegetables WITHOUT ramming them down their throats? (As tempting as it it.)
Actually, that’s not true. I’m being unfair. I’m being unfair on my kids and unfair myself. Of course my kids have “issues” with some vegetables. They aren’t “healthy eating adults” who eat everything green and fibrous. They are normal kids who eat some vegetable but not all. And that’s fine. They are normal. I just have to remind myself. Frequently.
So here’s a two part serious on how to cook vegetables such that your kids will actually eat them. Today I’ll look at your kids, your expectations and all the stress surrounding vegetables and next week I’ll look at the vegetables and give you some tips to help you with the cooking.
Today is the psychology.
- You are not alone. Parents across the globe worry that their children don’t eat enough veggies. It’s good that you worry. It shows you’re on the right track. Chances are that if you don’t worry, you aren’t feeding your kids enough veggies.
- Half of what you eat should be fruit and veggies.
- But don’t worry if it isn’t. Think of childhood as “vegetable training”. You are teaching them to enjoy vegetables so that when they are adults, they’ll choose to eat them. That won’t happen if you ram them down their throat. Or pressure them to eat.
- Give them what they like. They love raw carrots? Great. Let them eat raw carrots.
- Keep introducing new ones. They won’t like them at first. It takes time. You have to keep going, without pressure. Even then, you might find that they don’t like them. Just keep giving them new ones (as well as the ones you know they’ll eat).
- Learn to leave it politely. I have toddlers. We’re working on this. Throwing your courgette across the room is not considered polite. But it is normal. My older children are getting better at leaving it on the side of their plate. Sometimes they are even brave enough to try a tiny taste. Yuck! (They still don’t like it. Shame!)
- Give them control. Let them choose some dishes to make. If it’s vegetables you want them to eat, give them a vegetarian book, or look through some vegetable pinterest boards and let them choose some things to try. Don’t worry if they don’t like them. That’s life.
- Get them to help cook. Train them young. Even my two year olds like to help cook. Not all of the time obviously. I do actually have to get dinner on the table. But it helps get them involved in foods and raw ingredients. (They won’t always eat what they cook either.)
- Take them shopping. Again, not always if you don’t want to but let them choose some fruit and vegetables.
- Different types. Do your children like carrots? Do they like them grated, sliced, in circles, baked, roasted? Remember a carrot is not always a carrot! To your children, each different way you do carrots is different. Mix them up. Don’t always go for their favourite.
- Lots of choice. You want them to eat some vegetables, so you give them some carrots. They don’t feel like carrots today. If you give them carrots, peas and broccoli, they’re more likely to feel like one of them. The more you offer, the more they eat (generally).
I have to remind myself frequently that my children don’t eat everything all the time but they do eat lots of healthy things. And that’s OK.
When I look at those poor left over vegetables, I remind myself that although they didn’t eat ALL of them, they did eat some vegetables, they did try a bit of new vegetable. Or perhaps they didn’t try it, but they saw it, they smelt it and they got one step closer to accepting it.
And that's OK.
Healthy Eating for Kids
If you're struggling to get your kids to eat healthily and it's causing you stress and bother, then check out my book. A whole book on the topic of stress free and easy ways to get your kids to love their veggies!