As a parent and caregiver, you play an important role in making healthy choices for your children and guiding them towards one day making these choices on their own.
With so many mixed messages surrounding nutrition, this is a task that can often feel overwhelming.
If your little one is a veggie hater, you might find yourself using all sorts of strategies to get them to eat veggies – bribing, sneaking veggies into meals or forcing them to eat them. While these strategies may help in the short term, they are unlikely to positively influence their food behaviours and may even lead to more challenges as they get older.
IGA’s paediatric dietitian, Alex Parker, breaks down some simple things you can do to help your little ones learn to eat (and enjoy!) vegetables.
Don’t treat veggies as the enemy
Comments such as “you have to eat your broccoli before you can eat your dessert” sends a message to kids that vegetables are not enjoyable – they are a chore. Instead, try to create a positive mealtime environment by exposing your child to vegetables without pressure, and avoid any negative connotations surrounding vegetables. This can have profound effects on their future eating habits as well as help to alleviate your stress and frustration.
Get your child involved
The more familiar kids are with vegetables, the more likely they are to eat them. Some great ways to boost your child’s confidence and familiarity around vegetables include:
- Take your kids grocery shopping and encourage them to choose a veggie or two to buy and try each week.
- Get them in the kitchen and involve them in age-appropriate tasks such as washing vegetables or peeling and cutting using a child-friendly knife.
- Get your little one to serve up vegetables to other people at the table.
All of these small experiences will ultimately help improve their overall confidence with vegetables.
Take advantage of snack times
Snacks are great opportunities to bump up your little ones’ veggie intake and will show children different ways of enjoying them. Whether you keep it simple by serving vegetable sticks with a dip or some cheese or get a little more creative and create a recipe that includes some vegetables, taking advantage of snack time is a fantastic way to boost your child’s vegetable intake.
Find inspiration from some of our favourite veggie-based snacks here:
Lead by example
This is one of the most powerful ways to encourage your little ones to eat vegetables. If you don’t eat vegetables yourself, how can you expect your child to? Children learn by example, so it is essential to start by packing in as many veggies as possible into your own daily diet. Try to frequently sit with your child to eat and show them how you eat your vegetables (without putting pressure on them to eat theirs).
Serve small portions of new vegetables, alongside familiar foods
Be careful not to bombard your child with a big portion of new (unfamiliar) vegetables on their plate, as this can be overwhelming and will reduce their likelihood of trying anything at all.
Instead, try offering small portions of new vegetables e.g. one halved cherry tomato or a teaspoon of corn kernels. Offer these new vegetables alongside a familiar food that you know they enjoy. This will ultimately provide some comfort whilst encouraging them to taste something new.
Help your child listen to their body
While you may feel tempted to beg your child to eat one more bite of peas, mealtime offers a great opportunity to allow children to listen to their body’s instincts. Most kids are able to effectively self-regulate their hunger and appetite. This means that, in most circumstances, they will naturally eat the right amount of food for their body. Try to trust that when your child says they are finished, they really are and there’s no need to force them to eat more.
Need more support?
The Biting Truth’s Little Bites Program has been specifically designed for busy families in need of a little extra support navigating fussy eating. The program includes a selection of kid-friendly recipes, articles, tutorials, printable resources and more.