Eight Tips To Encourage Kids To Eat Vegetables

It’s tempting to camouflage vegetables by grating and stirring them through a meal when your kids refuse to eat them. This system might sneak a little extra nutrition into your children’s diet, but it doesn’t teach them that vegetables are an integral part of everyday eating. If you want to encourage your kids to accept vegetables, start by considering why they refuse to eat them in the first place.
When children dodge eating vegetables, they are not just objecting to the taste. Young children are still developing their fine motor skills, so balancing peas on a fork sometimes requires more co-ordination than a child can deliver at dinner-time. Also, children instinctively distrust unfamiliar textures – crunchy, squishy and leafy are all dangerously foreign to someone who has recently advanced from puree. Finally, as every parent knows, kids are stubborn. If you force the issue, they will refuse to eat on principle. Well, how much would you enjoy eating broccoli if someone was waving it in front of your face?
Here are eight tips to help your child accept vegetables without an argument:
Turn off the TV. It takes a lot of concentration to aim a fork into a string bean, even when you are looking directly at your plate. If kids are distracted by the television, they won’t be able to focus on their food.
Provide a range of tools. Fork, spoon, chopsticks or fingers. Meal-time might be messy but learning to enjoy healthy food is a higher priority than impeccable table manners. And the best way to learn how to use utensils is to practice daily on a range of foods.
Add a novelty dip. Kids love little rituals, especially those with the potential to become messy. Let them dunk their vegetables into a little dipping bowl of cream cheese or sweet-and-sour sauce. Individual dipping bowls are probably the most hygienic.
Offer a variety of shapes and textures. You don’t need to cook up a smorgasbord of vegetables every night, but most vegetables can be served in a variety of ways. Carrot, for example, can be served raw and steamed, sliced and julienned, without much extra effort from the domestic chef. Kids will feel a sense of independence and control if they can choose between “crunchy” and “soft” carrot.
Negotiate with dignity. Admit it – there are some vegetables you don’t like, and nobody’s forcing you to eat them. On the other hand, you’ve had several decades to make an independent evaluation. When your child insists that broccoli is “yucky” offer a dignified compromise: “I know you don’t like it, so you only have to eat one small piece.” Eventually, as the food becomes more familiar, your child is more likely to develop a taste for it.
Discuss “healthy food” and “extra food”. Even small children can understand the simple facts of nutrition – some foods help us see better, run faster, grow taller, while other food is just “extra”. We eat healthy food when we’re hungry and extra food afterwards if there’s still a little more room.
Twenty-minute limit. The longer food sits on a plate, the more unappetising it looks. While you nag and cajole, your child is staring at that corn cob, hypnotised into believing it is the most disgusting food on earth. So set a time-limit of twenty minutes for dinner. If the kids haven’t eaten all their vegetables within the timeframe, too bad – they miss out.
Reward system. Display a sticker chart within view of the dinner table. Add a star for each new vegetable accepted onto the menu. Imagine the sense of achievement once your child reaches ten – or twenty – stickers!

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