We all have at least one in the family – the one child who just would not touch his veggies … not even a single pea. OK, or maybe peas are all he’ll eat and nothing else. Or maybe he’ll only eat plain pasta with butter. All.day.long. And that’s hard for us moms, isn’t it? We want our kids to be healthy and growing. Part of that includes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. So we feel like a failure when all that one kid wants is pasta with butter for every single meal. Maybe he has a bit more variety in what he’ll eat but he shuns fruits and veggies like the plague.
In the meantime, what can you do while you wait and wait for said child to hopefully outgrow his disdain for fruits and veggies? The good news is, there are things you can do to proactively introduce your child to a lifestyle of enjoying fruits and vegetables!
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Not that our kids are monkeys … but they are master mimickers. Want them to eat their fruits and veggies? They need to see us do it. And often. And enjoy it! We’ve always included at least one type of vegetable dish at meals, especially dinner. When they consistently see fruits and veggies consumed as a regular part of life, when they see their parents enjoying it, when they see their siblings choosing to eat a bowl full of cherry tomatoes instead of a bowl full of Cheetos, they will come around and decide to try some for themselves. “The tendency for children to initially reject novel foods is often just a case of neophobia. Several studies have demonstrated that children’s preferences for and acceptance of new foods are enhanced with repeated exposure to those foods in a non-coercive setting.”1
My youngest used to hate tomatoes. HATE. With a vengeance. Absolutely refuses to eat it. However, we didn’t guilt trip, we didn’t coerce, we didn’t bribe, and we didn’t force. We do offer and ask him if he would like some whenever we have tomatoes at meal time. In addition, he has a brother who eats AND enjoys tomatoes. And after seeing, day in and day out, his older brother (and us) consuming tomatoes, one day, he decided he would try it again. And guess what? Now he eats more tomatoes than his brother!
Add Vegetables to Dishes
Sometimes I’ll finely grate or puree zucchini and add it to spaghetti sauce. Or make soup with veggies and puree it so it’s indistinguishable.
Drink it Up
I like a blend up a daily green smoothie to help us get enough servings of our fruits and vegetables. Add a handful of spinach to a banana, some pineapples, and a bit of plain yogurt and you have a nutrient rich drink even kids will love. And, you can slowly add more leafy greens to the concoction once they’re used to the taste of drinking their veggies. Before they know it (or actually, they may never realize it!), they’re drinking more veggies than fruits!
Add Stuff to It
Serve veggies with condiments like a homemade yogurt dressing. OK, so we don’t have to get all granola here. I know we moms are tight on time as it is, right? Try some organic Ranch dressing instead. Other dip options like hummus and nut butters work to please young palettes . Serve cooked veggies like broccoli and kale with butter. Grass-fed butter, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K, also masks some of the bitterness often associated with kale.
Readily Available as Snacks
Have carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers washed, cut up, and stored in the fridge ready to serve. Make offering veggies as a snack a lot easier than having to wash and cut when you’re busy and short on time. I like to set a plate full of colorful, cut up bell peppers (reds, yellow, and orange ones are way sweeter than green ones) strips and cherry tomatoes on the kitchen table when my boys are working on their school work. That way, they reach for a healthy snack instead of chips and crackers when they’re hungry.
Grocery Store Picking
Let them select and bag the veggies they want when you’re at the grocery store. This gives them a sense of ownership and control about what they eat. Ownership = higher likelihood of selected veggies being consumed by said child.
Take them to the local farm where U-pick is available and let them have at it. They are more excited about eating the veggies they get to harvest with their own little hands.
Grow and Eat
Start your own little backyard vegetable garden. There. I said it! No, I’m not crazy. Well, sometimes, maybe! But I’m a mom also, remember? So I’m well aware of how little time we all have, the bazillion and one things vying for our attention. That’s in addition to the 3, 4, 5+ with eyes and ears vying for our attention every.single.minute of the day. But hear me out here. Studies have shown that kids in families who have their own vegetable garden EAT MORE VEGGIES than kids who do not. No, I’m not looking to add another project to your list and not provide you with any help. We have an abundance of resources here with step-by-step, easy to follow instructions on how to grow and harvest from your own backyard vegetable garden.Now add in the help from your homegrown troop and you have little hands ready to dig, shovel, seed, water, and harvest. Talk about a built in sowing, watering, and harvesting system! 😉
In all seriousness though, having your own backyard vegetable garden does a multitude of things –
• Know where your food comes from. I don’t know about you, but in our age of GMO vegetables, over use of pesticides and herbicides I like having a little control over where my food.
• Gets the entire family involved. Again, studies show kids who help out and take ownership in the vegetable garden will eat more vegetables!
• Introduce your kids to new vegetables. Kids are more likely to try new and unfamiliar vegetables such as kohlrabi and okra when they are involved in the process of growing and harvesting them.
• Get some much needed vitamin D. The CDC found vitamin D in the list of the top nutrients Americans are deficient in. The best way to get vitamin D naturally is through sunlight. So get out there and get happy!
• Sunshine = better mood. Studies have shown those living in places with more sunshine tend to have higher levels of serotonin, the brain chemical most linked to mood. So get out there and harvest some carrots!
Ready to get your kids excited about eating their own homegrown vegetables? Click here for our easy, step-by-step guide on how to set up your own backyard vegetable garden in 30 minutes flat!