How good are your children at munching on veggies? If they’re anything like mine, they’ll have a few that they don’t mind eating, others they’ll swing between eating them happily and completely refusing to even touch them and there’ll be plenty that they simply won’t even entertain the existence of.
80% of children aren’t eating enough vegetables.
This figure doesn’t surprise me. There are weeks that I know both of mine haven’t eaten nearly enough of them and, from my work with families, I know that the majority of them have problems getting their children to eat vegetables. What saddens me is that 50% of parents have given up trying to get their children to eat 5-a-day (let alone the 7 or even 10 we’re supposed to be aiming for). GIVEN UP!
The lack of vegetable consumption is one of the major concerns for the mums I work with. It causes great stress and worry – how can my child be getting enough nutrients if they’re not eating their veg? But this stress is brought to the table with mum along with the food and it only compounds the issue as they beg and plead with their child to just have a bite or give it a try. They’re never going to explore vegetables if we’re putting all this pressure on them to eat.
How can we, then, get our children to eat more vegetables?
There’s no quick fix for this, sorry!
It’s really important that we provide continued and long-term exposure to a variety of vegetables; at the dinner table, shopping for them, growing them, preparing them in the kitchen, seeing you eating them, using them in play and craft activities, and reading books will all help to take the scariness away.
Here are some practical tips for presenting vegetables at mealtimes:
1. Increase the number of opportunities available to your children to eat vegetables.
Include them in every meal and snack (yes, breakfast too!) and by leaving smalls bowls of prepared vegetables in key areas of the house that they pass through or play in. We have fruit bowls on display so why not vegetable bowls? This way there’s no pressure for them to eat them and over time you might just see their hand reach for one as a snack.
2. Include as many vegetables in a meal as possible,
some familiar and some new, to increase the chances of them being eaten and to keep building that much needed familiarity which leads to children being comfortable exploring them and eventually nibbling on them.
3. Present raw and cooked vegetables at mealtimes.
Some children have a preference for one over the other. You can even offer frozen veg – peas, for example, might go down better when left frozen. The taste and texture are more consistent and the flavour dulled somewhat, making them more palatable for some children.
4. Play around with how you chop them
See what your child prefers them. The shape of a carrot, for example, really can make the difference between eating and not eating!
5. Prepare vegetables so that they’re easy to eat.
In much the same way, we might be more inclined to eat fruit if it is prepared for us and cut up into manageable sized pieces than we would a whole apple or orange, children are more likely to eat the vegetables if the hard work is done for them. Chopping them up small or grating them can help them to be less overwhelming and make it easier for them to pop a tiny piece in their mouth.
6. You might decide to hide vegetables in a dish.
This is a good way of getting them in without a fight but it’s a good idea to also present the vegetables alongside the dish so that they have an opportunity to try them in their pure form. We can’t still be hiding veg from our children when they’re 18 and getting ready to fend for themselves!
7. Offer something for your child to dip the vegetables into.
This can mask the flavour and help it go down more easily. All you need is a small amount on the side of the plate or in a little bowl – it’s not about smothering the food in the dip.
8. Allow children to help themselves to the vegetables.
You’d be surprised how many more they’re likely to eat when they’re in control!