Eating vegetables is important for your children. It gives them energy and provides them with the necessary vitamins and minerals to healthily develop. But getting a child to eat vegetables is not always a walk in the park.
Have you ever wondered why children have such a dislike of vegetables? This can be because they are still developing some of their taste buds and bitterness is overly sensitive. We liken it to riding a bike – your child is learning about vegetables and getting used to how they taste will take some time. To help you with this journey, our educators have come up with some helpful hints.
Lead by Example
As parents, it’s important that we are good role models as they often learn via our own actions. Eating as a family shows them that everyone eats vegetables and will help them push past the initial distaste for vegetables. During dinner, make an effort to eat your vegetables in small pieces to help your child explore the tastes and textures of each vegetable. This way, they will be able to make an informed decision about which ones they like and dislike. Your older children may also be a great help because they will (probably) eat their vegetables without issue.
Involve your child
Children always want to help you make dinner so allocate them a special activity, such as organising the vegetables on the chopping board by colour or size, grating the carrot, or slicing the beans. It’s not only heaps of fun for them but they are more likely to eat the vegetables prepared if they have had a hand in helping to prepare and make them. Another way you can involve your child is in the weekly shop; walk around each section and ask your child to pick out some vegetables to eat this week for lunch or dinner. By doing this it not only increases their exposure to vegetables but increases their curiosity as they often want to try things they haven’t seen before.
Don’t bribe your child
We know as children we were bribed with dessert, foods were banned from our household and we were sometimes forced to eat all of our vegetables. However recent research has shown that these behaviours increase the likelihood of your child having a bad relationship with food later in life. You will also find that the more you force them to eat their vegetables the less likely they are to eat them. We all want our children to enjoy eating their vegetables and not feel like it is a chore at mealtimes.
Instead of forcing them to eat a range of vegetables all at once, Child’s Play ELC recommends reintroducing foods periodically. It can sometimes take up to 20 exposures for your child to like and eat some foods so make sure to come back to it and encourage your child to try it again.
Have fun with the food
Eating vegetables should be fun. We know the old tale said don’t play with your food, but we encourage you to play with the colours, shapes and textures of the food with your children. This allows them to learn about food hygiene and what each vegetable looks and feels like. You can even make dinner time fun by making veggie pizzas or omelettes at home. It might even become your child’s favourite meal.
Hide in other dishes
If your child is flat out refusing to eat their vegetables, you can try hiding them in other dishes like pies, pasta or burgers. Your child most likely won’t notice the difference in flavour and will get their daily serving of vegetables. However, make sure to reintroduce them gradually as a side dish to other meals otherwise to get them used to eating fresh vegetables.
Cook a variety of dishes
While eating vegetables blanched or raw is one of the best ways to introduce vegetables to your child, don’t let it be the only way you cook vegetables. Make sure to add them into pasta sauces, stir-fries, curries, soups and salads. This way your child is exposed to a variety of dishes that include vegetables and can experience different tastes. Within these meals, you can also cook vegetables differently such as roasting, air frying or steaming which also exposes your child to different vegetable textures.
Don’t show your frustration at the dinner table
We know that children refusing to eat is heartbreaking and can take a toll. But it is important that we don’t associate negative feelings with eating vegetables. With each meal, go in with an open mind and excitement to be eating these new foods. If they refuse to eat it or decide they don’t like it, remember that is ok and one day they will eat their vegetables.
Join our community
At Child’s Play ELC, we are a community of families, educators and local organisations from a range of backgrounds. We love when we can share new recipes, provide our community with tips and tricks and come together to try new foods. Join our community by enrolling your child in our childcare program or get more involved in the community by starting a discussion about your tips and tricks to eating vegetables.