Parents know that sometimes, especially when kids are young, getting them to eat vegetables is no easy feat. At Jeca, we’re big proponents of the idea that you should get your kids involved with cooking. Having your kids help out in the kitchen not only teaches them important life skills but helps them learn about healthy eating and encourages them to try new things. Research has shown that children who are involved preparing and cooking food, including vegetables, develop more positive attitudes towards and preferences for those foods.
Here are some more tips we’ve put together to help you encourage your kids to eat vegetables...without having to bribe or chastise!
Tip One: Give them the Pick of the Vegetable Plot
As parents know all too well, kids like to exert a *little* control now and them. Ok, so sometimes it’s an all-out power struggle! But when it comes to food, giving kids a choice helps them take some ownership of what’s on their plate and they’re less likely to kick up a fuss. Bring them along to the grocery store and let them pick out which veggies to buy. This can also work at home, give them a choice between say, carrots or cauliflower. When a child feels in control and that they’ve made the decision, they’re less likely to object.
Tip Two: Use a Spoonful of Fat to Make the Medicine Go Down
There’s actually a scientific reason that many kids dislike vegetables with an intense passion and that’s because they taste bitter. The bitter taste of plants signifies to your tongue: “Danger! Poison!” However, the amounts of the nutrients that cause this bitterness in many leafy veggies - calcium, polyphenols, and flavonoids - aren’t toxic to us in the small doses you get from a bowl of kale or spinach! However, a child’s palate is more sensitive to bitter foods and so this warning sign is a giant red flag.
How to get around this conundrum? Well, the answer is a dose of healthy fat. Butter and olive oil can be used to make any vegetable taste delicious and, when used in moderation, fat is very good for you and your kids.
Tip Three: Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk
Perhaps the most important tip is that you need to be a positive role model for your kids. Your own relationship with food will definitely shape your children’s. If they see you eating a balanced, healthy diet that includes a wide variety of vegetables, they’re more likely to want to eat that too. Avoid talking about your dislike of certain vegetables since this can be a turn off to them for that vegetable too and also signify that it’s ok to be picky about their own vegetable choices.
Another part of this is to try, where possible, to give them similar healthy dishes to your own. As they grow, kids are often interested in what their parents eat, so encourage this by showing they that they eat what you eat and there isn’t a kid’s version -- which in many restaurants is often a less healthy option.