We made the switch to unprocessed foods when my daughters were two and three years old. I made slow and steady changes to our diets, but I encountered some resistance from the girls – they weren’t used to so many vegetables and unprocessed foods. Discouraged at first, I came across a study which found that a child may have to taste a food six to ten times before they accept it. I took this information to heart and was determined my kids would eventually enjoy a rainbow of color on their plate. Now, at eleven and twelve, I’m happy to say they eat a wide array of vegetables each day. Here are my top 5 tips for getting your child to eat more vegetables.
- Be persistent – You may have to keep trying. We took this approach with our kids, continuing night after night putting new foods on their plate. We had a one-bite minimum rule and after many weeks and months of persistence, they started eating all sorts of new vegetables. My oldest initially wouldn’t touch a salad with a ten-foot pole, but soon began eating a full bowl each night! Granted, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Roast Your Vegetables – My kids prefer roasting over all other ways to prepare vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower take on a whole new flavor profile when roasted at high heat with a bit of healthy fat and Celtic sea salt. Try squash, potatoes, carrots, green beans, too. They will eat them up!
- Add some healthy fats – Healthy fats make vegetables taste so much better. We use butter and ghee on all our vegetables. Why? These saturated fats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, contribute to the health of the immune system, and nourish the brain. Also, a Swedish study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that eating fruits and vegetables didn’t lower the risk of coronary heart disease unless said fruits and vegetables were consumed with high-fat dairy products. Bring on the butter!
- Don’t hide the vegetables – In general, I’m against hiding vegetables in food. Granted you’re going to get extra nutrients into your child’s diet, but you aren’t really doing them much long-term good because they aren’t learning the importance of eating a healthy diet. It’s ok if the kids don’t enjoy their food for a while. It’s more important that they learn how to make healthy choices. Eventually they will come to love these foods and eat them without being asked (or tricked).
- Get your kids cooking – Let them be a part of the meal planning, shopping and cooking. Bring them to the grocery store and let them choose fruits and vegetables. While you shop and cook, talk to them about the nutrients in each food and why it’s important to eat a diet rich in vegetables. Teach your kids proper knife skills. We taught our kids how to use a small paring knife at six years old so they could cut and chop alongside us. My kids really take pride in helping us plan, shop and cook. When meal time comes, they’re even more excited to partake.