Nature’s nutritional superheroes don’t always get top billing on your kid’s favorite foods list. Instead, most kids gravitate toward the sweet and salty offerings, while vitamin-rich veggies are surreptitiously pushed aside.
This anti-vegetable campaign can feel like a secret pact among kids worldwide. However, parents and caregivers know that a diet rich in vegetables is essential for growth and development. Fortunately, you can help your child get the nutrition they need while establishing the foundation for a lifetime of balanced nutrition. With a little creativity, fun, and conversation, your child will soon be asking for vegetables at mealtime.
1. Get Kids in the Kitchen
Kids don’t shy away from telling you what they think, and their opinion on vegetables is no exception. Without the learned behaviors of polite “No, thank you’s,” kids will tell it like it is. And if vegetables are a hard no, you’ll likely be facing some stressful mealtimes.
Release some sense of control by letting kids take charge of their veggie lineup. Children, especially around toddler age, love to help, both for the sake of curiosity and to mimic their adults. Use this inclination to your advantage and bring over a step stool to get your child involved in mealtime.
Adjusting for their age and aptitude, allow them to assist with meal and snack preparation. Choose kid-safe tools and guide them through the process of making meals from start to finish. Allow kids to choose ingredients from the fridge, freezer, or pantry, which can give them a confidence and curiosity boost. Together, wash, prep, and plate your vegetable masterpieces.
Making vegetables more approachable can go a long way, too. Have fun with seasonings, preparation methods, and textures, especially as some vegetable flavors can be too strong for young eaters.
Or serve up veggie benefits in a super greens powder smoothie, which can be fun to make and drink. Let kids press the blender button or shake up the mix to the beat of their favorite song. Add a silly straw and present their super greens blend as a nutrition-dense and flavorful upgrade to their usual water.
2. Make It Fun
Children often learn best through play, and learning to love vegetables is no different. Instead of force-feeding baby carrots, use the rainbow of vegetables as inspiration for some fun.
Take some tips from over-the-top Pinterest posts and put your family’s spin on them. Cut vegetables into fun shapes to spark curiosity in your young diner’s mind. Just as well-plated food at a restaurant incites your adult senses, so too does a nicely arranged vegetable tray.
Use miniature cookie cutters, reusable picks, and muffin cups to make even the most ordinary vegetable interesting. Broccoli florets attached to a celery stalk with toothpicks can be a backdrop for a dinosaur showdown. Invite your child to play and see how your storyline unfolds. A brontosaurus may need to take a bite out of your broccoli trees with a little help from its human.
With play at the forefront, your child gets low-stress, low-pressure exposure to vegetables outside of the usual meal setting. Incorporate vegetables they’ve tried through play on their plate at dinnertime to reinforce their initial interest. Resurrect the fun memories of their dinosaur scene to encourage both conversation and consumption without fuss.
3. Model Pro-Vegetable Behavior
The youngest humans in your household have an uncanny ability to reflect truth to their adults. As experts in mimicry, kids will expose your habits, good, bad, and otherwise. While language patterns and movement-based habits are among the first to appear, nutritional habits soon follow.
Help your kids develop a range of favorite foods by modeling healthy eating. First, establish regular mealtimes for your household. Prioritize sitting down at a table with little distraction from dining. This approach allows everyone an opportunity to connect and refuel while promoting optimal digestion.
Next, ensure that everyone’s plate contains an array of vegetables, whole grains, and proteins appropriate for their needs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has tips, recipes, and recommendations for caregivers that can help. Use their resources to reinforce your mealtime structure with activity sheets, games, and apps to extend the conversation about nutrition.
If your vegetable consumption practices differ from the recommended intake, it’s time to adjust your behavior. Kids are watching, and if you’re not following your own advice, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. Integrate vegetables into your diet just as you do for your child’s to model pro-vegetable behavior. Pair whole foods with smoothies, green juice blends, and clever recipes that pack a veggie punch. Join your child on their journey toward vegetable love to improve your whole family’s health for life.
Laying the Foundation for Your Child’s Lifelong Wellness
Children naturally prefer sweet tastes, but as a caregiver, it’s essential that you set a solid foundation for their lifelong wellness. Expand your knowledge of children’s nutritional needs to ensure you’re serving up the most nutritionally dense vegetables each time.
With children’s smaller stomachs and lower calorie needs, every bite counts for your kiddo’s overall nutrition and future flavor preferences. By encouraging nutritional curiosity and providing opportunities to sample a range of sweet and bitter tastes, you’ll help your child’s palate develop. As they grow, they’ll adopt a healthy, balanced diet packed with powerful nutrition for wherever life takes them.