Kids resist vegetables for complex reasons, but resolving the challenge may be relatively easy. We explore five ways to get kids to try veggies that do not involve camouflage, bargaining or tears.
Kids may be worth their weight in gold, but show them an ounce of broccoli and many end up being twice their weight in resistance.
Few events cause parents as much frustration, and guilt, as a kid who just will not eat. And often times, what they don’t want to eat are their vegetables. One bite of green beans can be a mountain of woe – for everyone involved.
We think part of the challenge exists not in the veggies, but in the set-up. It is true that kids have three times as many taste buds as adults. This means certain foods, like vegetables, can overwhelm their sensitive palates. However, habit may also come into play. After a while, kids might become conditioned to launch a standoff at the table, when in fact they may actually like what is on the plate.
So let’s try to solve the problem not by disguising the veggies, but by changing our approach to them. Following are five ways to try it:
1: Bowl them over: Several parents have told us that when they leave a plate of fresh veggies out on the table, their kids end up eating them. This strategy can be duplicated in the fridge, too. Fill clear jars or bowls with a rainbow of brightly colored vegetables (peppers, carrots and celery, for example) and store them at eye-level with your little one. If you are creative and have time, cut the veggies into fun shapes. Or simply adhere a heart or superhero onto the side, to catch their eyes.
2: Give kids picking power: Next time you are at the grocery with the kids, ask them to do you a favor and choose the evening’s meal, being sure to include a veggie as well. This plan requires some preparation, however. Spend time with the kids looking at food magazines and cookbooks. Be sure to point out the vegetables and identify them by name, and talk about the recipes. Ask them if they’d like to try a recipe, or what they’d like to change. Soon you will be a team, not dinner table adversaries.
3: Eat your veggies: Good leaders do not expect their teams to do anything they would not do themselves. It should be the same with parents and kids. Set a good example and eat lots of veggies (including those you aren’t crazy about). Make a point of saying, “Hold on, I want to get a carrot to snack on. You?” If she says no, throw her a loop by presenting the carrot in a fun new way, like as thinly cut ribbons from a vegetable peeler. She may ask to join you.
4: Watch what you say: Avoid talking about your kid’s eating habits around others. If she hears you tell a friend that she doesn’t like peas, she will believe you – even if she just ate them in her school lunch. When you are having a meal or snack together, withstand the temptation to comment on how much she is eating. As one dietitian wrote in Parents magazine, if you say things like “Eat your vegetables,” your kid will just resist.
5: Enhance, don’t hide, the veggies: The lure of ranch dressing and other dips is powerful, we know. But preservative-free, all-natural veggie enhancers (not hiders) will get better long-term results. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom are great on eggplant and squash. Lemon and orange zest can brighten up asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower. If your kid likes a dip or topper, try to opt for something that is 100% natural. By enhancing a vegetable’s flavor, not hiding it, we can help kids acquire a taste for veggies, so they love them for life!
And never forget: Always try to have fun!