You might be surprised how often I hear this. This question of how do you do it? How do you get your kids to eat so well? In truth my secret isn’t really a secret at all. Sorry if you feel duped. Fresh vegetables are just apart of our daily life. That’s right – every single day we eat fresh fruit & veggies & it’s the norm. I wish I could give people a secret trick that would magically make their kids pick up their forks & polish off a plate of green beans but the honest truth is that getting your kids to eat veggies, like anything else, takes time & it takes work. And… (here comes the tough love) it takes no more excuses. Yikes! You didn’t know you were getting tough love, did ya? I’ve actually been told I don’t really have the most gentle of bedside manner but I’m going to lay it out to you straight. I’m going to give you the tough love & then give you the good news. And your kiddos will be happier & healthier for it. No one wants their kids surviving on Cheerios & Goldfish crackers. And despite your friends, parents & even your pediatrician telling you it’s perfectly ‘normal’ for kids to eat only factory processed crackers for months at a time as long as you’re giving them a plastic bottle of ‘vitamin drink’… well, I’m sorry but we’ll have to agree to disagree. Nothing you buy that comes from a factory will be nourishing for your kids. Vitamin drinks don’t grow on trees or graze in fields of grass, my friends. And I’m a firm believer it isn’t even so much about what you’re feeding your kids as it is about the attitude with which you do so. So are you ready for the truth?
The Secret to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables
Stop Buying Them Processed Food
Look, I will be honest with you. I used to spend a majority of my time perusing the ‘snack aisles’. I’d load my cart with crackers, chips (healthy ones, of course), cereal bars, vegetable oil covered nut mixes, gummy fruit snacks & the list could go on & on. But you know what? Something told me those things weren’t nourishing & healthy for my kids. I certainly didn’t want to eat them, but if I didn’t buy them, what would I buy? These were, after all kid foods, right? When I started to wise up & started reading labels, the first thing we ditched was High Fructose Corn Syrup & let me tell you friends, those center grocery store aisle options got a lot smaller. Then I started questioning all those other strange words I was seeing on the labels of my ‘healthier’ processed snacks. And I realized the bad news – even if your Pop Tart is packed in a recycled box made from a factory that runs on solar power & has the words NATURAL written across it – it’s still a Pop Tart, friends.
When you sit down to dinner & you’ve presented your child with mac & cheese from a box next to a sad plate of steamed broccoli, what do you think most kids will eat first? If you’ve let them eat half a box of cereal for their after school snack, do you think they will be hungry for spaghetti squash or green beans an hour or two later? By eliminating as many processed foods as you can, you literally clear the market up for nutrient dense ‘snack’ foods. Snacks are simple – fruit or veg. If your kids are like my kids, they can gnaw through a bag of tortilla chips in under 5 minutes so I buy 2 bags. If they eat them by Tuesday, the rest of the week looks to be chip free.
Stop Making Excuses for Them
More tough love? I’m afraid so, but I get nicer after this one. Stop saying, ‘My kids DON’T EAT xyz.’ By saying my kids don’t eat something or my kids don’t like something you are almost giving them an opportunity to continue to not eat or like those things. How about instead saying, ‘My kids prefer carrots to cabbage’. Kind of like how I prefer flats to heels. I really don’t enjoy wearing heels all that much but I will for special occasions. When you go to someone’s house for dinner don’t look at their meal & say, ‘Oh my kids won’t eat that’. What if you just gave them a little bit & let them have the opportunity to surprise you? I’ve had people tell me their kids ate beets & asparagus at my house & would never even touch those things in their own homes. Give your kids the opportunity to enjoy new vegetables every day & when the situation comes where they won’t eat something then simply say, ‘Maybe you’ll try it tomorrow’! Not, ‘Oh, I forgot YOU DON’T LIKE THAT.’ When you go to the grocery store, stop thinking – My kids won’t eat that so I won’t even buy it. Buy it anyway. I know you don’t want to waste money so if literally no one in your house will eat it, them don’t buy it. But hopefully someone will. And eventually more people will. And if you’ve stopped buying processed snacks, the window of opportunity to buy & eat new fruits & veggies will get wider & wider & wider. Are there things my kids ‘don’t like’? Yes, but I just don’t talk about it all the time.
Stop Getting MAD
I get it. Meals are frustrating & this is something I really should work on more myself. But really, what’s the point of getting mad? Stop getting upset when your kids don’t want to eat what you’ve made. Don’t save their peas from dinner & tell them they have to eat them for breakfast. Who wants cold, leftover peas for breakfast? Not me.
Serve dinner. Their options are laid out in front of them. If they don’t want to eat or at least try something that’s fine! Are you hungry every single meal of the day? You’re kids aren’t going to be either. And hopefully they didn’t eat half a box of cereal an hour before dinner, right! In our house, we only have one rule: you have to try one bite of everything. That’s it. If the kids don’t want to eat they don’t have to but they do have to sit at the table & enjoy dinner with us. Because dinner is more about fighting over peas & carrots. It’s about being together & enjoying each other.
Make Vegetables. All. The. Time.
Yes, all the time. For every dinner I make, I make at least 1 vegetable. Most nights I make 2-3. I like to give my kids options & as I mentioned vegetables don’t need to be fancy. Spaghetti sauce with mushrooms & onions, steamed broccoli & a side salad. It’s easy. If you want to use one cooking method/tray then roast 2-3 veggies & your options are already there! Make seeing vegetables so apart of your normal, if they weren’t there the kids would be confused. Kids benefit from routine & if they routinely see you all enjoying your veggies, buying your veggies, preparing & eating your veggies it will suddenly become routine & normal for them. Strive to make vegetables alive in your house. At least 1 per meal – at least.
Use My Method
As I mentioned, I like to give my kids options. They all have different tastes & while I wish I could say everyone eats everything, that just isn’t true. Elliot prefers asparagus to mushrooms. Mimi prefers cauliflower mash to butternut squash. Oliver prefers most vegetables to broccoli. Arthur – well, he really does eat everything. When making meals & planning veggies I have a tested method – give kids the sure thing & then throw in a wild card. If you know they will eat roasted carrots, make them – it’s the sure thing! If you know brussels sprouts aren’t their favorite thing, make them anyway – it’s the wild card! Get them used to seeing all the veggies & eventually, maybe they will try something. And eventually, maybe they will like something! Also, don’t forget that kiddos taste buds are every changing, just like adults. As you grow, your taste buds change that’s why you should always be consistently reintroducing veggies!
Add Portioned Condiments
Kids like condiments. I get it. Who doesn’t like dipping? But be careful with condiments – unless you’re making them yourself, most of them are loaded with sugar so make sure you’re reading your labels. Aside from that, portion out your condiments in a dish for meals. Give the kids a serving size dish for ketchup & let them know when all that ketchup is gone, there isn’t any more for that meal. I personally like to use soy sauce dishes or silicone cupcake holders for dipping sauces!
A final note: there are children who have actual eating issues. Texture issues, developmental, digestive, swallowing issues & beyond. If your child has a diagnosed issue that require medical attention you should absolutely consult your health care provider.
So what do you think? Do you have a secret for getting your kids to eat veggies?
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