We all know that they're good for us, and that we should eat more. However, with our busy lifestyles.... and SO many families eating on the run, how can we make it possible for our children to eat the recommended 5-10+ servings per day??!
Here are some tried and true tips that should help ANY child be able to steadily increase his or her intake.
Note: I have used these tips with my own kids, my day care children, and recommended to my clients...successfully!
- Introduce fresh vegetables at the after school snack table! One of my fav things to entice my children to eat their veggies is to: gather a large sectional colourful try (you can buy these at almost any dollar store) and then stock each section with cut up produce (try snap peas, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, a variety of peppers, baby tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) and then place a very tasty dipping sauce in the middle section. You'll be surprised at how many they'll eat just while munching away throughout the afternoon.
- However, my most favourite way to introduce new veggies is through the breakfast mealtime smoothie! I usually have a base greens powder (*make sure it's one safe for kids, check labels) that I buy from my local health store, and then add my choice of liquid, protein and some fat (usually flax or extra virgin coconut oil), and fruit or a bit of fruit juice to sweeten. After they're used to the tasty version, begin to hide in the real stuff! (dark greens and spinach, avocados, carrots...if a veggie doesn't blend well then it may be easier to juice it first & then add).
- Soups & stews are an easy way to hide additional vegetables! If the child won't eat the dish because they see the new veggies in there, they consider blending them up first before seasoning; many creams of veggie soups are done that way anyway.
- Avoid giving a child junk that will fill their bellies and will prevent them from being truly hungry when the good stuff comes out. Also, along with that, watch their juice and milk intake. I've seen children not eat their meals & healthy snacks, but they may drink 4+ cups of milk before a meal, or other filling liquid. Keep the meals and snacks in balance with each other!
- For the younger ones, or truly very picky eaters, cook and blend the veggies first. Then add them to their fav dish. When my eldest was younger he refused to eat many green veggies, but he so enjoyed anything with noodles. So for the longest time he had 'green' flavoured sauce on his noodles!
- Model eating the vegetables yourself! I have had myriads of conversations with parents about their picky eaters. I always end with asking: "How about you? Do you eat 'such and such' food?" It amazes me how often the child will emulate the parent's picky aversion for veggies. Perhaps try hiding some veggies on yourself in some of the tips above??
- Let the children help out in the food prep. My children are homeschooled, so this is very easy to facilitate. However, when they were in 'regular' school I always encouraged them to help out when feasible. Children seem to be more adventurous when 'they' thought of the meal idea, or at least participated in it themselves.
- Teach your older children the benefits of eating fresh produce. Many children simply haven't been educated on the abundance of vitamins, minerals, and even phytonutrients (literally means 'plant nutrients') God has made available to us in fresh vegetables (and fruits!). Sometimes I nickname a food based on the main nutrition benefit "walnuts are 'brains" "carrots are 'eye food'" and "spinach makes us 'big and strong like Popeye" :)
- Try serving a variety of vegetables! Perhaps your child despises carrots, but have you tried cucumbers, celery slices, green beans, bok choy or some peas?
- Don't give up including the veggie on their plate! Many children will require a whole bunch of times being offered the vegetable before they'll take the plunge, especially the younger kids. If you are consistent in offering them, eventually you'll find some vegetables that your child will begin to enjoy!! And until that time...just keep 'hiding' them using the above tips...
***If you have tips that you have found useful for your own family, please feel free to share below in the comments. Thanks!
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