How to encourage children to eat vegetables is a challenge for many of us parents.
Take a look at my 9 expert tips on how to encourage children to eat more vegetables and you could soon see positive changes.
Eating right is a skill that children need to practise, just like learning to cycle a bike or reading. That means many children need time to become comfortable with the smell, taste and texture of vegetables. One of the reasons for this is that vegetables can vary, for example, a pepper is sweeter if it is riper. In contrast other foods such as a cracker are always exactly the same texture.
All children are individuals (just like us adults) and they vary in how quickly they master a skill and some just need a little more support than others.
Take a look at the following ways for how to encourage children to eat more vegetables.
1. Serve Vegetables First
Some children don’t eat their vegetables if, for example, they fill up on their favourite foods first such as pasta. As an alternative, serve vegetables when children are most hungry, that is at the start of a meal, before other foods or drinks. Suggestions for doing this include serving soup or cut up raw vegetables such as carrots while waiting for dinner.
2. Vary How We Serve Vegetables
It is a great idea to vary the way we cook vegetables, or to omit cooking altogether and serve them raw. Some children prefer their vegetables crunchy such as cut up raw peppers. It is worth trying different options with the same vegetable, such as roasting carrots which brings out their sweetness.
3. Vary How We Present Vegetables
Sometimes changing the appearance of a food is all we need to change our children’s opinion of it. One example is to add vegetable toppings to make a happy faced pizza, such as adding olives for the eyes, peppers for the mouth and carrot for the nose.
4. Vary the Textures of Vegetables
The texture of vegetables is often more important than the taste for many children. Children vary in their preferences for textures, with some preferring crunchy, soft or smooth textures such as pureed vegetables. This can simply mean experimenting with how long to cook vegetables, for example, some children prefer their vegetables cooked al dente (with bite) rather than being too soft and mushy.
5. Add Plenty of Flavour
Some children find the taste of some vegetables quite strong, especially leafy green vegetables. To help with this, add various flavours including salt, onions, garlic, butter and cheese. If some of these flavours are too strong just use a little or use milder versions such as garlic butter or serve with a dip such as hummus.
6. Build On What Children Like
Many children really like various forms of bread such as pancakes. One suggestion when making pancakes is to add some finely grated vegetables into the batter. These may include raw vegetables such as courgette (peel to remove the green skin. if you wish) or cooked vegetables like finely chopped cooked onion.
7. Make Vegetables More Fun
Vegetables are often seen negatively by children as being too healthy, boring or not tasty. We can make vegetables more fun with simple games, especially with younger children, for example, pretending broccoli is dinosaur food or relabelling food with superhero names like ‘X-Ray Vision Carrots’.
8. Remove the Fear
Often children are concerned that they won’t like the taste or texture of the vegetable or they will have to swallow it. One really simple way to help children with these fears is to have a napkin or tissue close by so that children can discreetly spit out the vegetable, if they don’t want to swallow it.
This can really help children to overcome their fear of tasting a vegetable.
9. Forget about Applying Pressure
Often, we as parents and caregivers may apply pressure to get our kids to eat vegetables, such as offering a biscuit if they eat their vegetables. Most children will want the biscuit so will end up feeling pressure to eat the vegetables. This may create even more negative feelings towards that particular vegetable, which may unfortunately last long-term.