Does the bowl of cooked vegetables you put on the table for supper elicit groans from your children? If given a choice, would they rather eat a serving of spinach or a pail of candy? (I think you know the answer.) If that’s the case, you’re not alone. While we know vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to thrive, convincing our offspring of this fact can sometimes be difficult. Let’s look at some fun ways you can encourage your child to eat veggies without bribing or coercion.
Let Your Child Pick Out Veggies at the Store
While I’m the first to agree that we can sometimes overwhelm our kids with too many choices, this is one time that it can benefit them to have some control over what they eat. When you make your next trip to the grocery store, encourage your child to choose a new vegetable that they have never tried. Try to make your choices seasonal and organic if possible.
Two recent additions to our diet are edamame, a Japanese soybean packed with protein and omega fatty acids, and artichokes, a flower shaped vegetable loaded with vitamin C and potassium. We love them! Many children, my own included, are unsure about trying new foods. The best thing to do is keep the atmosphere light. When you sit down to the table, encourage your children to take one bite in a matter-of-fact tone. Let the child who picked out the new food tell everyone at the table how he decided which one to choose. And don’t forget to try some yourself–you may find a new favorite!
Let Your Child Help Prepare Vegetables
Once you bring home your child’s new “find” at the grocery store, let them help you prepare it for dinner. My two year old daughter loves to rip lettuce and my four year old son enjoys arranging raw vegetables on a plate with dip. Grade-school kids can read to you the instructions on preparing an artichoke or squash. Older preschoolers on up can put veggies in a steamer or pot with help. Which brings me to another suggestion…
Steam Your Vegetables for Maximum Nutritional Benefits
Eating veggies raw and straight from the garden is the healthiest way to go, but to mix it up a little, try steaming. Steaming is healthiest way to prepare vegetables because they don’t become overcooked, therefore retaining most of their nutrients. They are more flavorful and have a nice texture compared to the limpness of their boiled counterparts. This is an excellent way to feed vegetables to young toddlers who could choke on them in raw form. Try adding a little salt and pepper or seasoning before serving.
Add Cheese to Your Child’s Vegetables
One of my children’s favorite things to eat (really!) is steamed broccoli sprinkled with parmesan cheese. In fact, a small amount of dietary fat can increase absorption of the nutrients found in vegetables. Parmesan cheese has one of the highest amounts of calcium per tablespoon, coming in at 55 mg. Adding cheese can be a tasty addition to your steamed side dish for both kids and grown-ups! We’re not talking about smothering your cauliflower with Velveeta, though–the amount of cheese shouldn’t outweigh the amount of veggies on your plate!
Let Them Eat Frozen!
One interesting way my kids like vegetables is straight out of the freezer bag. I discovered this one day when several frozen peas rolled onto the counter and my son grabbed a few and ate them. Ever since then he’s asked for some while helping me prepare supper. Frozen corn, peas or “mixed vegetables” are a perfect snack for older toddlers and preschoolers who aren’t prone to choking on their food. Frozen vegetables are great to use for serving hot when seasonally fresh is out of season because they are frozen at the peak of freshness, preserving the most nutrients possible.
Getting your kids to eat vegetables doesn’t need to be a battle! Letting them get involved in the shopping and prep time as well as experimenting with a few different ways of serving them makes it more of an adventure and less of an all-out battle at the dinner table.