Tatum helping with supper!
Ok, excited might be a bit of a dramatization. But you definitely can get your children interested and involved in including more vegetable-based dishes in your diet, especially if you plan to transition to a vegetarian diet. Children desperately need good nutrition during their first few years. Fruits and vegetables are valuable sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and countless other important nutrients that our kids need for healthy development and to ward off illness. So what if your child doesn’t like them? We all know how challenging it can be to get your little ones to willingly eat vegetables on their plate (if your kids haven’t gone through that phase, tell us your secrets! Please!), yet I’m not a fan of making two different meals each night to satisfy everyone’s likes and dislikes. Besides, how will children learn about nutrition if they’re not made to at least try nutritious food?
There are a lot of tricks up my sleeve that I like to use when getting Tatum excited about eating vegetables, so read on for some great tips on including more vegetables into your child’s diet!
Take Trips to your local Farmer’s Market.
The farmer’s market is my favourite place in the warmer months to get local, fresh produce. It’s such a great way to connect your child to their food since you’re able to talk with the people who actually grew it! Not only that, but they are usually great about giving kids samples of the veggies or fruit to try, which makes it fun. Try incorporating a weekly family trip to your farmer’s market. Making it a fun outing can help to change your kids’ perspective!
Get Them Involved
Getting your children involved in the growing, choosing, cooking, etc. processes of making healthy meals is the perfect way to get them interested in what’s on their plate. It’s easy to put a plate of food in front of them and tell them to eat, but it might end up that your child will be sitting at the table for over an hour, moving the food around the plate or attempting to feed it do the dog (my childhood dog was very well-fed thanks to me). A good way to start is by starting a container garden or garden in your backyard! Getting children to help care for the garden will give them a great sense of accomplishment, and they’ll be amazed that they were able to grow food! I also like to make sure that Tatum has choices when it comes to her meals, for example, I’ll ask her “Would you like carrots or peas for a vegetable?” It makes her feel as though she has more control over what she’s eating, instead of being told “this is what we’re having and you’re going to like it!” (Although I wish that would work sometimes). Giving your child age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen is also a great way to help them love their food. Back when Tatum was a baby and I would make her baby food, she would sit in the kitchen in her high chair and hold a banana, or a potato, or whatever else I was puree-ing. Involve them in the process, and you’ll see them learning to enjoy their food!
Try a New Vegetable Each Week.
One thing I like to try to do with Tatum is let her choose a vegetable during our grocery trip that we haven’t tried before, or isn’t part of our regular rotation, and we figure out how to use it in a meal (either that night or not long after the grocery trip). If I get Tatum involved in choosing the vegetables, she is more willing to try them. We don’t always like the vegetable or how we’ve included it in our meals, and that’s okay! As long as they’re at least trying the food, you’re on the right path.
Set a Good Example.
Our kids are always looking up to us as role models, whether we are aware of it or not. So, if I make Tatum lunch, and her plate is full of healthy fruits and vegetables, and I sit down with two cookies, she’s not going to be interested in eating well. Setting an example of healthy eating for our children is extremely important. If Tatum sees me eating (and enjoying) my yellow peppers, she will try her yellow peppers too. Making sure that we “practice what we preach” is essential for helping our children to learn to make healthy food choices.
Make FUN Recipes.
By “fun” I don’t mean you have to go all Martha Stewart and become chained to your kitchen all day long, creating elaborate meals. All you have to do is step outside the box and create something that’s a bit more out of the ordinary than normal. Tatum will eat veggies and rice…if she has to. But to make it more fun (who doesn’t like fun food??), I try to mix it up every once in a while with a cool recipe, like these Quinoa Pizza Bites that Steph included in her last post about vegetarian recipes. I also like to make pictures out of Tatum’s food. Kids are very visual! Again, you don’t have to be making beautiful pieces of food art. I just get silly with it and make faces on her pancakes and things like that. Just something to make them laugh and that is pleasing to the eye. Annabel Karmel has some great “mural meals” you can find here if you want to go beyond my pancake faces, or if you do a google search for “kids meals made into pictures” you can find some great ideas!
It’s Not the End Of the World if They Don’t Eat a Vegetable Every Day.
Ideally, we would like our kids to be hoovering down platefuls of vegetables at each meal. Unfortunately that is not usually the case (again, if your child does this, what is your secret!?). I make a point to offer Tatum a vegetable with each meal, but I try not to push her to eat any certain thing. If your child already does not have a taste for vegetables at the moment, making them eat a bunch of broccoli is not going to be effective. It’s hard, because you want your child to be getting the best nutrition possible, but as long as you’re offering them a vegetable with each meal as well as other healthy foods (and start offering veggies for snacks too!), they will eventually eat them and enjoy them. I am a big believer in the “one bite” rule, meaning I expect Tatum to try one bite of each thing on her plate. If she has decided that she doesn’t want to continue (usually I will balance this out by including an item I know she really likes along with a new food), then that’s fine. Forcing the food on them is going to create an unhealthy view on food. Offer, make sure they take a bite, and let them choose from there! Eventually they will be eating vegetables each day.
Kids have likes and dislikes, just as adults do, and won’t become accustomed to certain tastes overnight. It will take time and consistency, but by offering vegetable as often as we can and making sure we set good examples for our children, you’ll have healthy eaters in no time!
Here are my favourite sites for great recipes and ideas for getting kids inspired to eat well:
Laptop Lunches – Recipes
Today I Ate a Rainbow