Vegetables are an important part of a growing child’s diet. According to the MyPlate graphic from the USDA, children need 1 to 3 cups of veggies each day depending on their age, sex, and level of physical activity. One serving of vegetables is 1 cup raw or cooked, 1 cup 100% vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. Vegetables can be raw, cooked, canned, frozen, dried/dehydrated, whole, cut-up, or mashed.
Vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These nutrients help to support growth and development, strengthen the immune system, provide energy, and improve mental focus. Vegetables can be dark green, colorful, starchy, or a part of the legume family (beans and peas).
It’s no secret that encouraging children to “eat their greens” can prove to be a challenge.
When faced with this difficulty, here are 5 tips for getting your kids to love vegetables (or at least try them):
Get creative in the kitchen. Make your vegetables taste good by experimenting with different cooking methods, different spices, and including them in interesting dishes. Some ideas to get you started include mini veggie pizzas, vegetarian bean chili, or homemade veggie nuggets (see recipe here!: https://www.thecookandhim.com/recipes/kid-friendly-veggie-nuggets/ )
Allow them to choose. Letting your kid(s) in on the meal planning, prepping, and cooking will pique their interest. Children are much more likely to try food they helped to prepare. Even better, getting your children involved in the kitchen can help them build basic math skills by working with cooking measurements, explore their senses, boost confidence, and expand their flavor horizons. Ways to get your children safely involved include stirring pancake batter, tearing greens for a salad, adding ingredients, or assembling a pizza.
Try, try again. Research shows it could take up to ten exposures to a new food for a child to accept it. If your child scrunches up their nose and turns away from the vegetables on their plate, have patience, and be persistent. These things take time.
Presentation matters. A colorful plate filled with colorful veggies is visually appealing. Including a variety of veggies and making the food “fun” can help to catch your child’s interest in trying more of these foods. Colorful dishes you can experiment with include a veggie stir fry, roasted root vegetables, and grilled veggie skewers.
Be a veggie-lover role model. Showing your children how much you love vegetables yourself makes it much more likely they will try and enjoy veggies too. Kids watch everything you do, so modeling healthful behaviors is a great subtle way to pass down eating behaviors.
Budget-friendly veggies include those that are in-season, frozen, or canned. Fresh is typically best. Some fresh vegetables are generally cheap year-round. These include broccoli, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage. If fresh veggies aren’t feasible, the next best is frozen. Frozen veggies are more nutritious, taste better, and look better than canned veggies. When purchasing canned veggies, be mindful to choose those labeled “Low Sodium” when possible. Keep in mind, any veggies are better than no veggies. Whichever method works best for you in terms of cost and taste, go for it!
The main takeaway is vegetables are important, and helping your child enjoy them each day is a worthwhile challenge. Some strategies may work better than others, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Soon enough, your child will be a veggie-lover too!