Thursday, August 04, 2016
FAQ: how do I get my children to eat veggies?
I feel your pain! My six year old would rather eat his own hand than munch on the rainbow of veggies on our table but here's the answer: Don't give up!
Essentially that is the sum total of the answer but I know you're looking for more than that so here goes...
Take a look at your own attitude to food. Do you love sweet food? Chocolate? Cake? Is eating veggies a struggle for you too? Our actions speak much louder than our words so part of the key is for your child to see you eating and enjoying vegetables - regularly.
Grow your own. Plant some food and involve your children. Kids love to get their hands dirty and the main part of the fun of a veggie garden is picking the result. Even if it is just herbs or strawberries in pots believe kids will love it and it will help open up their minds and tastebuds to eating the good stuff. Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Foundation is great evidence and inspiration for this point.
Involve your children in the food preparation. They are much more likely to try meals they have cooked themselves. Gather a stack of cookbooks and let your children choose some recipes they'd like to cook with you - the recipes have to of course include veggies.
Your best friend is the grater and your next best friend is the blender. Ideally we don't want to be hiding the good stuff at every meal but the reality is to get the nutrition into some little blighters we have to grate in 10 veggies to spaghetti bolognaise and blend in the baby spinach to a monster green juice made sweet with frozen banana and coconut water.
Stay cool as a cucumber. For some kids and parents food becomes a power play. This is not good for anyone's digestion. One approach is the grown up decides 'when and what' will be eaten and the child decides 'how much'.
Try a different texture. Some kids will eat raw carrot. Some kids like it cooked. Some like it grated in a sandwich. Sometimes, it all comes down to texture. Don't do backflips trying to please your child but at different meals offer the 'offending' vegetable in a different format and see what happens.
Make sure your kids have an appetite at meal times. If you have a child who like to 'graze' ie. eat all day, when meal time rolls around they will have no hunger, no reason, no motivation to eat what is served. My son went to a Steiner kindergarten and the teacher there was a grandmother who encouraged us young mums to map our mealtimes out like this: breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
Read French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. It is a fabulous true story of a North American family that moves to Le Billon's husband's families rural village in France and transitions their young children from carb loving, cake munching kiddos to veggie loving souls. Karen tells their story with such good humour and practical advice you can't help fall in love with it and be filled with hope and inspiration that you too can do this in your own home.
Keep a food diary for a week. This will give you a really accurate picture of what your child is eating and whether you really need to get yourself so worked up! :)
Make a 2 fruit 5 vegetable chart. This can be a great way of engaging young children in eating well. Some kids are really motivated by stickers and visual charts. Design it any way you wish. Explain to your children the aim is for them to eat 2 pieces of fruit each day and 5 serves of vegetables (for children that's about 2 and a half cups) and they can stick a sticker on the chart for each serve they eat. Ideally it should be a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, lots of different colours.
Don't worry. It will all be ok. My mother in law says that when she was raising my husband she was convinced for the rest his life he would only eat sausages, mashed potato and peas because that was all he would eat enthusiastically as a child. Of course as an adult he eats absolutely everything. Like many things in childhood, kids go through stages and as long as parents can remain positive and light hearted about things the stage will pass.
For more info, tips and inspiration on handling fussy eaters take a look at naturopath and mum of 2, Georgia Harding's fantastic blog: Well Nourished. Here's a good post to get you started.
If you are really concerned about your child's eating behaviour or nutrition do seek professional advice from a paediatrician or naturopath.