Getting your kids to eat vegetables is a parental challenge unlike any other, and can make mealtimes a real battlefield. Take a look at our 9 expert tips to encourage your child to eat more vegetables and you could soon see a real difference at home.
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The only real way to increase the range of foods your child likes and eats is by exposing them to those flavours. It can take young taste buds up to 15-20 times to taste something new before really deciding whether or not they like it; yet research shows that parents often give up after just five attempts.
Exposure is vital – otherwise there aren’t the opportunities to make progress. In fact, exposure can even make your kids like something they previously disliked!
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Did You Know?
Eating right is a skill that children need to practise, just like learning to cycle a bike or reading. That means many children need time to become comfortable with the smell, taste and texture of vegetables.
Vegetables can vary, for example, a pepper is sweeter if it is riper. In contrast other foods such as a cracker are always exactly the same.
All children are individuals (just like us adults) and they vary in how quickly they master a skill and some just need a little more support than others.
Take a look at the following expert tips to see how we can turn the tables on vegetables at mealtimes.
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Tips To Encourage Your Child To Eat More Vegetables
#1. Serve Vegetables First
Some children don’t eat their vegetables if, for example, they fill up on their favourite foods first such as pasta. As an alternative, serve vegetables when children are most hungry, that is at the start of a meal, before other foods or drinks.
Suggestions for doing this include serving soup or cut up raw vegetables such as sugar snap peas while waiting for dinner.
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#2. Vary How You Cook Vegetables
It is a great idea to vary the way we cook vegetables, or to omit cooking altogether and serve them raw. Some children prefer their vegetables crunchy such as cut up raw carrot. It is worth trying different options with the same vegetable, such as roasted carrots which brings out their sweetness.
#3. Vary How You Present Vegetables
Sometimes changing the appearance of a food is all we need to change our children’s opinion of it.
One example is to add vegetable toppings to make a happy faced pizza, such as adding olives for the eyes, peppers for the mouth and carrot for the nose.
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#4. Vary the Textures of Vegetables
The texture of vegetables is often more important than the taste for many children. Children vary in their preferences for textures, with some preferring crunchy, soft or smooth textures such as pureed vegetables.
This can simply mean experimenting with how long to cook vegetables, for example, some children prefer their vegetables cooked al dente (with bite) rather than being too soft and mushy.
#5. Add Plenty of Flavour
Some children find the taste of some vegetables quite strong, especially leafy green vegetables. To help with this, add various flavours including salt, onions, garlic, butter and cheese.
If some of these flavours are too strong just use a little or use milder versions such as garlic butter or serve with a dip such as houmous.
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#6. Build On What Your Child Likes
Many children really like various forms of bread such as pancakes. One suggestion when making pancakes is to add some finely grated vegetables into the batter.
These may include raw vegetables such as courgette (peel to remove the skin and any green colour) or cooked vegetables like finely grated onion.
#7. Make Vegetables Fun
Vegetables are often seen negatively by children as being too healthy, boring or not tasty. We can make vegetables more fun with simple games, especially with younger children, for example, pretending broccoli is dinosaur food or relabeling food with superhero names like ‘X-Ray Vision Carrots’.
#8. Remove the Fear
Often children are concerned that they won’t like the taste or texture of the vegetable or they will have to swallow it.
One really simple way to help children with these fears is to have a napkin or tissue close by so that children can discreetly spit out the vegetable, if they don’t want to swallow it.
This can really help children to get over their fear of tasting a vegetable that is new or unfamiliar to them.
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#9. Look Beyond the Immediate Meal
Often, we as parents and caregivers may apply pressure to get our kids to eat vegetables, such as offering a biscuit if they eat their vegetables. Most children will want the biscuit so will end up feeling pressure to eat the vegetables. This may create even more negative feelings towards that particular vegetable, which may unfortunately last long-term.
Build on the steps above and think about the long-term goal of getting children comfortable with the texture, smell and taste of vegetables before they are willing to eat them.
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How do you get your kids to eat more vegetables? Share your top tips with other parents. Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!