Did you know that vegetable intake during childhood predicts vegetable intake into adulthood? The more children eat vegetables now, the better their diet will be for life!
However, it is easier said than done and it seems getting children to eat their veggies is one of those common parenting challenges. A press release by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) showed that around 93 percent of children in the US were not eating enough vegetables to meet daily recommendations – with potato being the most consumed vegetable.
So what actions can we put in place to encourage them?
While most of us know that children should be eating between two to five servings of vegetables every day, many don’t realise variety is just as important. A healthy eater is one who eats a wide variety of vegetables, every day.
It is amazing how much power parents have to influence their children’s diet – including their likes and dislikes – and here are 10 tips to get your children eating more veggies!
- Put veggies in every meal. Include vegetables in every meal and encourage your child to have at least a small taste every time. The more they taste, the more they learn to like them.
- Focus on variety. Offering a wide variety of vegetables to your child will allow them to become familiar with them and develop their taste preference. Try round ones, long ones, purple ones, green ones, leafy ones, and crunchy ones. You never know which ones they will like and they might surprise you!
- Plant a garden. Brainstorm ideas for your vegetable garden together and let them get started. Children are more likely to try foods they have helped plant and grow.
- Boost the flavour. Some vegetables taste bland or bitter so be sure to add herbs, spices, hummus or healthy dressing to make them more interesting and palatable. It may also be a good idea to add familiar flavours your child is comfortable with.
- Snack on vegetables. Offer raw vegetables as a snack and add a dip to make it extra tasty and fun! If your child is eating another snack, you can still offer some vegetables on the side.
- Put them in their lunchbox. Always include vegetables in lunchboxes. You can do this by adding vegetables to sandwiches, such as grated carrot, beetroot, lettuce, cucumber or baby spinach. Think of replacing some of the fruit for vegetables.
- Let them choose. Let your child choose between vegetables in dishes or for snacks. To introduce new vegetables, it may be a good idea to give them a choice between two new ones to try.
- Take them shopping. Have your children pick out vegetables to add to your grocery list and let them choose and bag them.
- Make it an entrée. If your child is hungry just before a meal, offer raw vegetables to snack on. It won’t spoil their appetite and children are more likely to eat vegetables and try new foods when they are very hungry!
- Ensure easy access. Keep vegetables in the fridge at your child’s eye level, this will make sure it is the first thing they see. You can also keep ready to eat vegetables in a special container and let them help themselves anytime.
The best way to get your child to eat more vegetables is to keep offering them. Encourage them to try and taste. Don’t worry if they don’t like them all at first – by serving a wide variety and presenting them in different ways, your child will get the chance to eat and enjoy plenty of veggies every day.
What vegetables do your children love? What are your best tricks for getting them to eat more? We would love to hear from you!
In good health.