Getting Kids to eat veggies – My favourite strategy
Do your children eagerly eat veggies? Is dinner a struggle? If your child is eating vegetables twice a day and those vegetables include a variety of types and color of vegetables, then you and your child are doing great! However, if getting your child to eat vegetables regularly is a struggle. Then please, keep reading.
As a working mother of three active boys, I know what mealtimes can look like. There can be chaos, phone calls, injuries, arguing and melt downs. Sometimes the vegetables are the last thing to happen.
That healthy salad that was in the meal plan, it is just not going to get made. Mama is tired, and I just can’t wash and chop right now. And they probably won’t eat it anyways, so why should I worry? Same thing can go for making lunch. Do I really want to chop veggies at 7am? Not unless you count coffee beans as the veggie I am grinding up.
Whenever we are looking for solutions to health barriers, we first need to look at the problem. Challenges facing parents in feeding children healthy veggies is essentially two-fold:
- It’s more work to chop the veggies and have them ready.
- Getting them to eat them.
My favourite tip solves both of those problems. I call it the “Never ending bowl of veggies” (catchy right?). In my fridge, I have a glass dish that I aim to keep stocked with raw vegetables constantly. When I have a minute and/or a cutting board out, I will chop. And I don’t chop a part of the cucumber or 1 pepper, I chop the whole thing and I chop multiple peppers or carrots and I rinse peas and put that in. For me half the time it takes to prepare the vegetables is getting everything out and cleaning up. So, if I am chopping for a stir-fry, or chopping broccoli to steam or carrots roast, or even find myself with a few minutes while something else is cooking then that “Never ending bowl of veggies” gets a top up. This leaves healthy vegetables always ready to go. A side note: This has also dramatically increased how many vegetables I eat!
The next step is to serve these vegetables first. This “Never ending bowl of veggies” gets put on the table WHILE I am making dinner. This step addresses two things that research has shown us can help children eat more veggies:
- Serve them away from more appealing options. Kids tend to eat what they like first and will eat more vegetables when the vegetables are served with less appealing foods. Since your meals are all delicious and likely kid-approved, the veggies get eaten last (if at all).
- Serve vegetables in isolation at the start of the meal.
This tip has the ADDED BONUS of stopping the kids from asking for snacks while I am making dinner. They can go crazy with the vegetables. A vegetable free-for-all. It has yet to happen that my kids are too full of their vegetables to eat their main meal. And often they have eaten their daily serving of vegetables and we haven’t even sat down for dinner.
The glass bowl is changed out every couple of days for a clean one and topped up when it is most convenient for me. I love this strategy because it is flexible. I can get it ready when I have time and it gives me a guilt free pass on those busier days. In addition, as my kids have gotten older, they can help keep this full by washing and chopping while I am doing other things in the kitchen. Being involved in the food preparation process helps keep them engaged in their food and their health.
Put this veggie bowl out at lunch and dinner, everyday. If they want to opt for raw veggies over cooked one day for dinner or raw veggies over salad. No problem, that choice is theirs. That sense of choice helps kids to eat healthier. The healthy habit I want to instill is that vegetables ALWAYS go with lunch and dinner EVERYDAY. By eating from this vegetable container daily you are modeling healthy eating habits. Your kids will follow your lead.
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. My hope is that this small tip will help you and your family improve your nutritional status by getting a little (or a lot) more of these nutrient dense foods.
P.S. Our dish is more of a glass container than a bowl. See the picture. I use “bowl” because “Never ending glass container of veggies” is not so catchy.:)