How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Plants
Being a mom is the ultimate test of my recipe development skills…or lack thereof, as far as my kids are concerned! Both of my kids have very different palettes and approaches to eating.
For example, my son grew up with pretty much zero sugar until the age of 2. He would eat hummus with a spoon like yogurt (he does not do this now, much to my chagrin!). He is, by all accounts, a really good eater. My daughter, however, grazes and dislikes the entire concept of sitting down to a meal. All she wants to eat is macaroni and cheese, crackers, chocolate chips, peanut butter toast (at least it’s sprouted grain!) and apples.
Would either of them state that vegetables are their favourite food? Nope! But they eat them, with few complaints most days. And my kids were raised with a veggie-loving mama…so I totally get it if your kids are not as open to kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts as mine!
So how DO you get your kids to eat their vegetables?
The solution that works for your family might look different than the one that works for mine. It really depends on your kids likes, dislikes and eating quirks.
I’ve been getting so many questions from you on how to get your veggie-averse kids eating more plants that I’m sharing five of my strategies for feeding veggies to my kids.
Include veggies at EVERY meal.
I think it’s my European background…but I really believe in cooking the meal that you want to enjoy as a family, not what you’re sure they will eat.
By now, we’ve all heard that it takes multiple introductions of a food before a kid will accept it. So if they don’t like mushrooms the fifth time, they may like them the tenth time. As parents, we choose what foods to offer – and kids can choose whether or not they will eat it. This can feel difficult at first; we want them to eat well which can lead us to cater to their tastes. However, in doing so, your kids may not have the opportunity to develop a taste for the family’s favourite foods.
We do not force our kids to eat what they don’t like; instead, they are asked to taste every single element of their plate and we are happy for them to eat around the elements they don’t like. So, they may push aside the spinach…and we give them an extra piece of buttered toast, but we want to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods every day.
Get them involved
Giving kids just a little bit of choice can really help take the fight out of food. When I grocery shop, and when I pack lunches, I give my kids a choice of fruit and veg from what’s available. For example, I will offer ‘carrots or cucumbers’ for the side veg in their lunch or snack. Or ask if they want roasted cauliflower or broccoli at dinner if I have both.
This strategy gives kids a bit of control – while not making you cater to an unreasonable number of whims. And I cannot tout the benefits of getting your kids cooking enough. If they are involved in preparing the meal (even if it is stirring a dish or slicing up some veggies) they will be more invested in enjoying the meal.
Get kids snacking on plants
My kids are constantly hungry from 3:30 until dinner time…and if I let them, they would eat enough snacks to no longer be hungry for dinner. So, after a big after school snack, I will often put a tray of sliced veggies on the dinner table while I prep dinner and if they are hungry, they can eat that. You’d be surprised at the gusto with which they go at a veggie tray before dinner (I was surprised, quite frankly!). And if they fill up on a bit of veg, no problem!
If you have ‘sauce’ kids, offering veggies at snack time along with a yummy dip can really help increase their intake. I really love this ranch dip….and this yummy pink bean dip!
Get creative with the delivery method
I am not a huge fan of only serving kids ‘hidden’ fruit and veggies (see above); however, if you need to get more fruit and veg into them, putting it in some muffins or mac and cheese doesn’t hurt! Smoothies make an awesome addition to breakfast or after school snacks to ramp up the fruit and veggie quota for the day.
Often, introducing a new food into a food that kids already love can really help with acceptance. For example, putting mushrooms or butternut squash into a lasagna. Or, a chili. How is it that almost all kids like chili – even the ones who will push beans aside on their plate? Magic.
I know that some kids have ‘ick’ radar and can spot a speck of spinach in a burger from one mile…like my daughter…so this approach doesn’t always work.
Play around with different cooking methods
My son pretty much hated broccoli until I roasted it for the first time – and now he can’t get enough. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in so many veggies. Blended soups (and smoothies) are one of the only ways my daughter will accept many veggies. And my kids love battered or crusted veggie recipes like these asparagus ‘fries’ or sesame cauliflower.
So there you have it! Five strategies to help your kids eat more veggies from my home to yours. If you have a tried and true method, I would love to hear more about it over on Instagram.