It’s a common dinner-time battle at most houses: trying to get the kids to eat some vegetables. Any vegetables. We resort to bribery, tricks and rewards to get them to consume just a little of the greens on their plates each night.
The good news is that science is leading the way to help make the entire process easier on kids and their grown-ups.
“Luckily, liking and eating vegetables is a learned behaviour. Research shows the number one way to get kids to enjoy vegetables is to repeatedly offer a variety of them. Making veggies fun in a positive, interactive environment is also critical.”
There are other programs out there trying to help get the kids on board with eating their veggies too. Jamie Oliver, Stephanie Alexander, Food Bank and Oz Harvest all have food education programs which help to teach kids about vegetables – and get them eating and preparing them too.
We rarely think of trying to get the kids to eat vegetables as fun – and that might be part of the problem. Relaxing the dinner time rules, cutting out the bribery and rewards system and focusing on creating a calm and peaceful mealtime can make an enormous difference not only to vegetable consumption but also to the mental wellbeing of your entire family.
The next time dinner time battles begin, try these strategies instead:
- Make sure you serve vegetables alongside other foods your kids enjoy eating each night. If there’s only vegetables and they don’t like them, there’s likely to be tears.
- Stop fighting over veggies. Let your kids choose if they will eat their vegetables and how much of them. Offer a little praise when they eat or try a veggie, but don’t make it the focus of your meal.
- Take your kids grocery shopping and talk about the different vegetable options available. Allow them to touch and feel and help you pick out the best or ripest vegetables. Letting them help with cooking and preparing vegetables is also a great idea.
- Don’t save veggies for dinner time. Serve them up raw for afternoon tea, baked into muffins or cooked up for lunch. Sometimes kids are too tired at dinner time to try new foods.
- Have dessert but don’t trade it for eating vegetables. You’re sending a message that vegetables are bad and you need a reward for eating them.
- Hide them if you have to, but make sure you don’t avoid serving vegetables altogether. Even if you’re sure your kids won’t eat them, serve them up anyway. Repeated exposure to vegetables gets kids eating them. Eventually!
We all know that eating vegetables is good for us but learning to like them can take some time. Take away the pressure to eat them and you might find your child reaching for the broccoli before you know it.