Kids and vegetables can be a loaded topic to address. Do you enforce eating veggies? How many bites? What do you do with a kid that refuses to eat vegetables? It’s enough to make a mom’s head spin, and not in the right way.
Believe it or not, despite having a vegetable garden for over 20 years, my children did not come out of the womb loving vegetables. Amazing, isn’t it! My husband and I love to cook, and we love our veggies, but our kids, more or less, have needed time to warm up to the idea of vegetables on their plate.
When my oldest son started eating solid foods, I feed him jars of Gerber baby food. It’s what our pediatrician recommended, and as a new mom, I had no idea I could do anything else. Shortly after my second son was born, 7 years later, I found the book Super Baby Food, and basically never looked at jarred food again. Super Baby Food was my bible for introducing my children to vegetables along with other foods like sesame tahini. Incidentally, Super Baby Food makes a great gift for a new mom because it provides lots of information and recipes for making your own baby food, and lots of ideas and recipes for birthday parties and crafts.
We didn’t set out to bring our children around to eating vegetables, at least not initially. We have a vegetable garden which the kids help with from time to time. We also have included them in the kitchen because they wanted to be where we were. It’s easy to pull a chair up to the counter, and have a child watch or help with making food.
We’ve also tried not to cater to their taste buds when we’re making meals. As parents, we know that some of our kids don’t like vegetables a certain way, or they may not like certain types of meat. As we grew as parents, we came around to telling the kids, and believing, that it was our job to make the meals, and it was our children’s job to eat them, or not.
We also recognize our children’s temperaments and their effect on their willingness to try foods. My oldest son always had a negative reaction to anything new. However, as his taste buds have matured, he’s more willing to try new foods. My 2nd son was also initially negative about trying new foods. Encouraging him to cook has helped him in this area significantly.
Encouraging our children to eat one piece, yes one piece, has worked well for us. Initially, my daughter would not touch her broccoli. Even if we made jokes about trees. Over the past year, she has warmed up to eating the tops off of the broccoli. No more tears about eating broccoli.
I read somewhere that a child may need to try a food as many as 30 times before they get comfortable with it. If you think about it, it could take up to a year for a child to learn to eat broccoli. In those terms, it’s okay if my child fusses about the broccoli this week, and next week, and the week after that.
Consider your child’s temperament. If they have a strong negative reaction to new things and don’t transition well, introducing new foods is going to be a really slow, patient process. And, that’s okay. I serve my children healthy food and keep the junk out of the house. Food is not a hill I need to die on.
Include vegetables in sauces when you can make them less obvious. Shredded zucchini in a cheese sauce stands out like a sore thumb. Shredded zucchini in spaghetti sauce – not so much. Don’t hesitate to mention the vegetables in the sauce at another time. When my kids balk at eating onions or peppers, my 16 year old son loves to remind them that their dad includes these vegetables in his world famous tomato sauce. They just don’t see or notice them.
Never say no to a child swiping a piece of a carrot for a quick snack. My 6 year old likes to snag carrot pieces when I’m cutting them up for dinner, and I let him. I want him to think eating vegetables is cool.
Encourage your kids to join you in the kitchen. I’ve written several posts on cooking with kids. Have your child pick out the recipe to give them ownership. Teach them knife and tool skills. Have fun cooking. Make mistakes and get messy. (I think I’m channeling Ms. Frizzle!)
Grow a garden with your kids or take them shopping. Either way, connect them to the source of their food. A produce section in a grocery store is a rainbow of colors waiting to be tasted. Pick out some new foods, take them home, and have a tasting session.
How do you encourage your children to eat their veggies?
Because I love meeting new people and sharing, this post is linked to:
The Mommy Club, Frugal Food Thursday, Simple Lives, Keeping It Real Thursday, This Chick Cooks, Simply Made Home, #KidsintheKitchen, Living Better Together, Thriving Thursday, Family Fun Friday, Simple Natural Saturdays, Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party