Health & Fitness
Getting Kids to Eat Their Vegetables
I'm not one for mashing zucchini to add it to my brownies. If I'm going to eat a brownie, well, that brownie had better be worth every bite without any zucchini strings in there to make a mess of it. I wouldn't expect my kids to do so either, and really, what would that be teaching them? A daily dose of brownies is perfect for your body…as long as I put some green stuff in it when you're not looking? I think not.
I'm a big believer in teaching kids to eat healthy, and healthy to me means that I also teach them about the meaning of moderation, which specifically relates to the junk food that so many people consume on a daily basis. I'm not saying there isn't a time to indulge in sweets or crispy fried goodness, but those things just aren't what make up the basis of a healthy diet, and fooling my kids into thinking they can eat the brownie to get their daily vegetable? Well, I'm not even going to go there.
Instead, my method of teaching my kids how to accept and appreciate their vegetables is solidly based in education and exposure. Education starts early, as soon as they're started on solids, and it continues through all different phases of their development, even when they begin to express their desire to say no more and more and even when your daughter suddenly becomes a preteen in a matter of minutes, one who likes to tell you what she thinks of food.
While feeding children vegetables can be a touchy subject for many parents, I'm only here to share what my philosophy has and continues to be with my children and share a few things that we do to get them excited about the food we eat.
- Take them with you. It is so, so important that your children be involved in where their food comes from, and if that means you bring them to the grocery store, dragging them through in a cart, dealing with the ups and downs of parenting and the difficulties of getting a strong-willed two-year-old to sit in a cart, well, then you do it. Some days you may not, but if you never bring them and get them in that store, they are missing out on so many valuable lessons, but even early on, they're not watching that food go into the cart, get paid for and stored in your fridge. Knowing that the food comes from that situation will help them understand when you tell them there aren't any cookies and we're having rice and vegetables for dinner.
- Take them to a farm. Whether you're purchasing ingredients direct from a farmer, taking a tour or doing a pick-your-own experience, getting them on a farm and seeing exactly how it works will help them gain an appreciation for the food they have around them.
- Grow something. Even if you just start out with a potted basil or rosemary plant that is grown inside, showing them how dirt and water and a seed turns into food that is served at dinner is a constant reminder of the food process.
- Cook with them. When kids see that carrots are shredded to go into the salad, they may not be as opposed to eating them. Bringing kids into the kitchen and letting them experience how food is made can make a casserole look a whole lot more appealing. Show them how a fresh vegetable changes color when it's cooked and how to properly season it. these are skills they'll take with them when they're moving out on their own.
- Give them a choice. While many of our family meals are determined by us as the parents, we make an effort to have the kids choose something they'd like to eat each week whenever possible. We then have them help shop for and prepare their meal, which creates a sense of ownership when it's served on the dinner table.
While these aren't the only answers for getting kids to eat vegetables, they are a solid basis for showing your kids what a healthy diet looks like. Sneaking vegetables into macaroni and cheese and brownies only teaches them to eat macaroni and cheese and brownies. Teach your kids how to eat healthy by empowering them with the knowledge and the tools to do so.