How to get your child to eat more vegetables

When it comes to eating vegetables even adults are picky and what’s more, with young kids. There is no denying that vegetables are very important as an important source of nutrition. Being rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, eating vegetables will help improve your child’s immune system and bowel movements. The big question is how to make your little one love vegetables. It is not impossible but it needs patience, persistence and some creativity on your part.

Lead the way

Set a good example. Let your child see that you enjoy eating vegetables. If you don’t give importance to healthy food, you can’t expect your child to ask for it as kids eat what they know. If you wince at spinach or broccoli, it is very likely your child will do the same. Always be aware of your eating habits as it has an influence on your child.

Make vegetables fun

Children love to make believe. Instead of ordering your child to eat vegetables, relate vegetables to fun things. You can tell your child how Popeye the sailor man becomes stronger every time he eats spinach. Your child may not be interested if you tell him/her how rich carrots are in vitamins. Instead, tell how far and better he/she can see by eating more carrots. It will probably have better effect.

Useful tips

  • Don't overcook vegetables. Steaming or microwaving retains more nutrients than boiling.

  • Some older children prefer a little 'bite' and may like to eat their vegetables as finger food.

  • Strong tasting vegetables become a little mild after a long, hot simmer and children won’t mind them in a soup.

  • Don't give children cookies or sweet treats when a meal is about to be served.

  • Keep junk food away totally or to a minimum at home and make healthy alternatives like carrot sticks or other vegetables that can be eaten raw more accessible to your child.

Recruit your child

Get your child to help in the preparation. Take him/her to the supermarket or grocery store. Let your child pick some of the vegetables. Take your child to a farm or fruit orchard. It is even better if you can plant some vegetables together and let your child watch them grow and harvest. This will help make your child more enthusiastic about eating vegetables.

Use the one-bite rule for picky eaters

Many parents also enforce the one-bite rule where a child is made to try at least one solid mouthful of a rejected food whenever it is served. It is believed that a child who initially rejects a certain food needs at least 8 to 10 exposures to it before he/she reacts favourably towards it.

Arrange vegetables creatively

Don't clutter the vegetables. It will look more beautiful and appealing if you keep them in small individual bowls and let your child pick them up one by one. Your child will love their vegetables when it is designed in patterns. Create a heart- shape or a smiley face on your child’s plate with carrots and cherry tomatoes. Build a colourful forest, using steamed broccoli florets for trees, and carrots and other vegetables that are cut like flowers and animals.

Don’t force your child to finish

Don’t force your child to finish the vegetables if he/she doesn’t like it. Forcing will not change his/her behaviour. Instead, it will only create a negative food experience for your child who will associate the food with bad feelings. Don’t use a sweet treat as a bribe or withhold it as punishment as this is not encouraging a natural liking for vegetables.

Add additional flavours

You can add butter, cheese, garlic or chicken to the vegetables to make it more appealing to your child. Also remember, vegetables can be served raw, baked, steamed, grilled, stir fried or boiled. Vegetables can also be served in juice or soup form. You can add vegetables to a noodle or pasta dish. Fried rice too can look more appealing and colourful with the addition of a few vegetables.

Reward good behaviour

When your child tries one bite of a rejected food reward him/her with things like stickers. This will create a more positive food, experience.

Be persistent

Some children will love eating vegetables and some won’t take to it immediately. It will require more effort and patience on your part. It is important to note that the habits your child develops at a young age will remain with him/her for a long time. So keep at it. Your persistence will pay off.

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