How To Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables
Beaverton Farmer’s market is open again. It always brings me great joy to see all those vibrant vegetables and sweet berries like a rainbow under Oregon skies and to hear the sound of children playing in the park mixing with the local music; to savor the smells of food and popcorn and flowers and sunshine or rain on asphalt. The market is one of my favorite things to do. My whole family goes almost every week.
My children are mostly grown now, my youngest getting ready to graduate from High School. Last summer he worked at one of the vegetable stands at the market and would bring home bags of fresh produce at the end of his shift. At 18 years old, he can tell me how to cook tatsoi, Bok choy, mizuna and sorrel.
Believe it or not, when he was small, he was the pickiest of eaters and getting him to eat vegetables was challenging. He’d often push his food around on his plate or gag if I asked him to take a bite.
Most kids are picky when it comes to vegetables. They’re too slimy or too green or smell funny. But eating vegetables is important for their health too and a child should get several servings per day of fresh vegetables.
So, since it’s market season, I thought that I would share some tricks I’ve learned over the years. And even if your kid is too smart for your tricks, sooner or later, as their palate’s mature, they too may make you a salad of sorrel and mizuna.
First of all, and probably the most important thing is setting a good example. Eat your vegetables. Choose second helpings of salads, make stir-fry’s with lots of colors and help them learn the importance of eating them.
Help your child find vegetables that they will eat. Kids will eat broccoli or salad with the right dressing or vegetable sticks. And if they gag every time they take a bite of chard, then let them choose something else but serve them a little chard on their plate, even if they don’t eat it.
Plant a garden with them. Put up signs with the vegetables and as the plants ripen have a little picnic that includes some of the food that they’ve grown.
Chop vegetables like broccoli or peas or green beans into bite sized pieces and add them to a favorite dish like macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. And a soup broth that has been cooked with vegetables is going to have some of those nutrients in it even if they don’t eat the green stuff.
You can puree vegetables like spinach and chard and throw them into sauces or add them into a smoothie. I’ve even hidden them in muffins and cakes. Some children may be horrified by the color of a smoothie with berries and greens (mucky grey) so put it in a cup that doesn’t reveal its color.
Raw vegetables or a salad with dip can be more appealing than cooked vegetables. Give them that as a back-up choice.
And finally, keep serving them vegetables. Keep introducing your child to vegetables. Have them take one bite and try stuff. Sooner or later – they may be introducing exotic vegetables to you.
By Dr. Jennifer Means ND, LAc