Sunday, June 20, 2004

What's the best way to get the kids to eat their vegies?

Any recipes or tips to get more vegies into kids' diet?

Answer on What's the best way to get the kids to eat their vegies?

You can work it into meals later, but for establishing a comfort with vegetables, try just as a snack at first.
My method's rather unconventional, directly against the "EAT IT OR ELSE" method, but it has worked for me, and it has worked for several families I've recommended it to.

Figure out the times your kids normally snack. Bring them a plate, even without them asking, with different things on it. Cut up fruit, granola bars, kid-sized veggies, maybe something sweet like mini marshmallows. For every unfamiliar thing or vegetable the kid's uncertain about, give him two or three things you know he likes on the plate. It'll establish a comfort zone. Trust me, it gets eaten most of the time.

Kids like things small. Don't sit a whole carrot in front of them and say, "EAT IT." Instead, cut it into small rounds. Much better chance of it getting eaten and not intimidating them.
I've never known a kid to turn down baby corns.

Don't force it. Forcing it or holding something over them (the ability to leave the table, dessert, privileges) or threatening is the surest way to turn them off the food forever, and may in fact lead to bigger issues with food in general if it's done enough. Don't stand over them and WATCH (or worse, glare) as many parents do. It's uncomfortable for the child and makes it worse.

Just offer it up. No strings attached. Set the plate down and walk away, even. Check back in an hour and see what happens, and rotate new veggies around instead of the same thing, and don't get discouraged the first few times you try it if nothing happens. It's only a small amount of food, after all.

When my 2 older daughters came to live with us, as my nieces at first (we later adopted them), they wouldn't go near veggies. Now we go through pounds a week, and they LOVE growing them in our garden. I tried forcing foods at first. Big mistake on my part, it turned my then-5-year-old off several foods (veggies and non veggies) that she still won't eat, even after she relaxed about food and started loving veggies. All because of negative associations.

What did the trick was slowly offering manageable sized vegetables, giving variety, and offering it without expectation of them "cleaning their plates" or watching them like a hawk when they ate it.

At first they didn't trust unfamiliar things on their plates that I'd give them while they were playing outside, or doing arts and crafts, or whatever, but eventually they realised that it was okay to try it since they knew they wouldn't be forced to eat it all, and that I'd not insist on it. As a result, I think now that almost anything I put on that plate will get at least tried, if not eaten all the way, because they trust that it's not being forced. They know now that if they don't like it, they're not going to be forced to have any more and that it's okay to say, "no thanks."

ETA: One more thing, don't try to hide it or cover up the taste. Even my 11 month old sees right through that trick. All kids do. It's like they have a built-in veggie-dar to detect it even under meat, cheese, fruit and soup.