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 learn – just like learning good manners – and that takes time. For example, becoming more familiar with the taste and texture of vegetables (and fruit) can prove more tricky for some kids, especially as those sensory aspects can vary depending on the food’s ripeness, flavour and so on.
Of course all children vary in the pace of their achievements, and some just need a little more support than others.
It’s important to remember that young kids don’t have stable taste preferences. They aren’t born disliking vegetables, and when they start weaning is a great time to start shaping your child’s food preferences.
Avoiding healthy food choices because your child thinks they don’t like something only serves to reinforce their dislike. Take a look at the following tips to see how you can turn the tables on veg at mealtimes.
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9 Tips to Make Vegetables for Kids More Enticing
#1. Serve Vegetables First
Some kids may have no reason to eat their vegetables if, for example, they fill up on lots of pasta during dinner. Try serving veg when kids are most hungry, so before other foods or a drink. Ways of doing this include serving soup or sliced raw veg as an after-school snack or a starter while waiting for dinner.
I would recommend making the soup in bulk or preparing the raw veg beforehand and keeping it ready in the fridge.
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#2. Vary How You Cook Vegetables
This is to prevent children getting into the habit of eating the same items over and over and they then come to expect the same things over and over. This makes them more resistant to new foods. Take, for example, a carrot, it can be served raw, as well as cooked: mashed, pureed, lightly steamed or roasted.
#3. Vary How You Present Vegetables
Sometimes changing the appearance of a food is all you need to change your child’s opinion of it, for example, make a happy faced pizza with veg toppings or adding googley eyes to different veg.
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#4. Vary the Textures of Vegetables
Texture is often more of an obstacle than the taste and children vary in their preferences for textures, with some preferring crunchy, soft, chewy or smooth textures. This can simply mean experimenting with how cooked your veg are, for example, al dente (with bite) or softer.
#5. Add Plenty of Flavour
This makes vegetables taste more appealing especially for children who aren’t very keen on the taste of some vegetables, or for stronger tasting veg. Common add-ins include onions, garlic and cheese. There are also more subtle or dairy free versions of these flavours including: onion granules, garlic powder and nutritional yeast.
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#6. Build On What Your Child Likes
Many children really like pancakes, for example, so one suggestion is to add some finely grated, raw courgette to your pancake batter before cooking (it can be peeled to remove the skin and any green colour).
#7. Make Vegetables Fun
This is because veg are often viewed negatively by children. Simple games can be played especially with younger children, for example, pretend the broccoli is dinosaur food or label foods with superhero names like ‘X-Ray Vision Carrots’.
#8. Remove the Fear
One really simple way to help kids get over their fear of vegetables is to have a napkin close by so that your child can discreetly spit out the food if they don’t want to swallow it.
This can really help to reassure children when tasting new foods, if they know they don’t have to eat something they don’t want to.
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#9. Look Beyond the Immediate Meal
Build on the steps above and think about the long-term goal of getting your child familiar with and happy to eat vegetables.
Applying pressure to your kids to get them to eat is counterproductive (for example, asking them to take “2 more bites”). In the short-term, kids often respond by eating less rather than more, and this may set up a negative association with that food which can last long-term.
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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!