Veggies are probably the most important part of our diet. But of course, to add to our parenting challenge, they also seem to be the most difficult to get into our kids.
In Australia, less than 10 per cent of children aged four to eight-years old eat the recommended amount of vegetables, (with potato being the most consumed vegetable).
While most of us know children should be eating between two to five serves of vegetables every day, many don’t realise variety is just as important. A healthy eater is one who eats a wide variety of vegetables, every day.
It’s also good to know that veggie intake during childhood predicts veggie intake into adulthood – the more our kids eat vegetables now, the better their diet will be for life.
Here are 10 tips to get your kids eating more veggies:
- Put veggies in every meal. Include vegetables in every meal and encourage your child to have at least a small taste every time (the more they taste, the more they learn to like them).
- Variety, variety, variety! Offer a wide variety of vegetables. Try leafy ones, round ones, long ones, purple ones, green ones and crunchy ones. By exposing your child to a variety of veggies, they will become more familiar with them and develop their taste preferences. You never know which ones they’ll like – they might surprise you!
- Snack on veggies. Offer raw vegetables as a snack. Add a dip to make it extra tasty and fun! If your child is eating another snack, you can still offer a veggie on the side.
- Boost your veggies with flavour. Some vegetables taste bland or bitter to kids. Add herbs, spices, hummus or healthy dressing to make them more interesting and palatable. A vinaigrette is also great on lightly steamed vegetables.
- Make an entrée of veggies. If your child is hungry just before a meal, offer raw veggies to snack on. It won’t spoil their appetite, and kids are more likely to eat vegetables and try new foods when they are very hungry!
- Offer veggies ‘anytime.’ Declare vegetables ‘anytime’ food. If your child is hungry between meals or when the kitchen is closed, let them have a raw vegetable to fill the gap.
- Add veggies to your favourite family dishes. Think of an extra vegetable you could add to your favourite casserole, soup, curry, bake or pasta dish. Ask your child for suggestions – they might have a great idea and you can give them the credit for making the dish even tastier!
- Put ’em in their lunchbox. Always include vegetables in the lunchbox. Add vegetables to sandwiches, such as grated carrot, cucumber, beetroot, lettuce or baby spinach. Try a salad with rice, pasta or quinoa mixed with fresh vegetables or leftover roasted vegetables. Think of replacing some of the fruit for vegetables.
- Let them choose. Kids love choice. Let your child choose between vegetables in dishes or for snacks. To introduce new vegetables, give them a choice between two new ones to try.
- Show them off. Keep vegetables in the fridge at your child’s eye level, this will be the first thing they see when they open the door! You can also keep ‘ready to eat’ vegetables in a special container and let them help themselves anytime.
The best way to get kids eating more vegetables is to keep offering them. Encourage them to taste. Don’t worry if they don’t like them all at first – by serving a wide variety and presenting them in different ways, your child will get the chance to eat and enjoy plenty of veggies every day.
What veggies do your kids love? What are your best tricks for getting them to eat more?