I love food, no secret there really! My kids also love food – they are adventurous eaters and really relish in discovering new tastes and culinary delights.
Food is a huge part of our family life, we talk about it, we plan holidays around it, we celebrate with it. Not a day goes by when we don’t have some discussion around what we’ve eaten or what we might eat. My kids often ask after school ‘what’s for dinner’ or if they forget, they all take a guess on the way home from after school activities what I might have cooked.
I don’t believe I’m just lucky that they are adventurous eaters – my hubby and I have worked very hard to build a food culture within our family and persisted to do so to this day. Food and the health of our family are our priority and a big part of our day to day life.
There is no ‘one trick’ to raising food loving kids, but many strategies and tactics, many of which I’ve already shared on the blog. We all know that vegetables are something we all should be eating more of, yet many kids are very fussy in this department.
So today I thought I’d share a few things that I have done to make vegetables appealing to my kids:
Always add flavour
Vegetables truely shine when they are at the very least well seasoned with a fat (such as olive oil or butter) which helps your body to absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the veggies. I think a good pinch of sea salt and a grind of black pepper, are essential to enhance the flavour of veggies too. A cracking dressing (here are three simple ones to get you started) goes a long way to making vegetables and salads shine. In fact, my kids have been known to be converted to love a previously disliked vegetable, all based on finding a dressing that works. For example, they really didn’t like kale, cooked or raw, but my Orange, Kale and Quinoa Salad (recipe in Sides and Salads) – is one of their favourite meals, go figure.
Many kids like the process of dipping vegetables – I know many kids who won’t eat a carrot stick or snow pea. But give them a tasty dip and nothing but veggies to scoop it up and they really enjoy it. Many dips (like pesto) are a great source of veggies themselves. I have a heap of delicious and nutritious dip recipes here.
‘Boost’ foods they already love
So your kids love spaghetti bolognese, or a curry, or noodle soup? Add a vegetable or two. If they are very fussy, add one or two you know they like and also add in something new (that they haven’t yet tried or that they may have rejected in the past). For more on ‘hiding’ vegetables have a read of this post. For ideas and recipes on 6 vegetables to boost a smoothie with, click here.
Never tell a child that they should eat vegetables because they are ‘healthy’ or ‘good for them’. Unless they have been seriously sick, they have no concept of health and most kids could care less about ‘being good’. Instead, market vegetables to your kids by dropping small tips about how they will benefit from eating them. No nagging, just mention that ways something they may not be keen on, will benefit them. For example; to my avocado hesitant daughter, I’d mention casually how it is full of good fats that help keep her skin and hair looking beautiful (appealing to her vanity). To my sports obsessed son, that vegetables are so important for strong, fast muscles. To a fairy obsessed friends daughter, ‘fairies eat loads of salad to keep their wings strong’. You get my drift! Junk food companies market their products very well to kids, so you need to do so too.
Transfer your enthusiasm
Even if you think vegetables are ho-hum, your kids should believe they are the bees-knees, super delicious, the best thing since sliced bread! Always be super enthusiastic about veggies and always share how much you and your partner enjoy them (in front of the kids, just no bad acting ha ha). You know yourself if a friend or someone you admire raves about something, you will approach the same positively and eagerly . So even if you aren’t keen on a particular vegetable yourself, don’t project that to your kids. Kids always follow you example over your advice.
When you are eating dinner, don’t just scoff it silently, talk about whats on your plate, the flavours you are enjoying. Kids are like sponges right through to adulthood. Get excited about veggies and chances are your kids will too.
In a snack
Vegetables make great snacks, cooked or raw. Food marketing companies have conditioned us to believe that certain foods are for snacking on (like biscuits, crackers, fruit, yoghurt etc;). Truth is any food can be a snack and vegetables make the best, most nourishing snacks. So next time you reach for a piece of fruit or something you’ve baked, perhaps think of serving, or even just including veggies. I have loads of ideas for nourishing snacks here.
Never stop offering
One thing I know for sure is that kids tastes change regularly. You would never give up on teaching your kids to toilet train, to read or write, so please never stop finding ways to help them to enjoy eating a variety of vegetables. If they don’t like them one way, try them another (cooked differently, raw, with a different flavouring/ dressing etc).
My kids eat most vegetables these days, but it hasn’t always been this way. I’m a parent of two very determined kids and I fully understand the toils of juggling parenting, work and life in general. I really believe that by persisting, getting a little creative and enjoying veggies yourself, anyone can instil a love of these nutrition dense, super important foods.