Getting your children to eat vegetables is too familiar a problem for many parents. Toddlers seem to build an instinctive habit to avoid the greens and go for the sweets, cookies and packaged snacks instead. However, this veggie-eating problem could be solved with several steps.
Make veggies your children’s first foods
Want to build a habit of eating healthy in your children? Make sure they start early. A study by Research Institute of Child Nutrition found that those who ate more homemade, healthy food in their infancy grew up to eat more vegetables than those who ate store-bought food. So start cooking veggies for your babies and toddlers!
Be a role model and set good examples
Children are known to mimic and imitate people around them. Preparing and eating meals together as well as seeing their parents enjoy some vegetables would not only develop children’s social skills, but also let them see vegetables as a fun food choice that entails a pleasant experience.
Give incentives to choose vegetables
Given other options, children are more likely to skip the veggies. Limit their choices and make it easier for them to pick vegetables. You can do this by offering fruits first during mealtime, pairing salad with a less appetizing dish, and preparing vegetables instead of junk foods as snacks. A study in Leeds, UK found that with these tweaks, children are 2.5 times more likely to eat vegetables!
Be patient and repeat
Food neophobia – fear of new food – is part of human’s safety mechanism that is useful for survival (i.e. avoidance of poisonous ingredients). However, this tendency makes it more difficult to introduce new vegetables to children. Therefore, repetition and patience are needed. “Offer a vegetable and recognise that it may take many repetitions to persuade a child to sample something new,” said clinical psychologist Edward Abramson PhD, Professor Emeritus at California State University.
Provide some variety
Allow your children to learn new things and have some fun with their food by providing variety. Offer several kinds of vegetables with different tastes, textures, shapes and colours. Cut them in small novelty shapes, such as smiley faces or dinosaurs. Put them not just in salad or stir fry, but also in pizza, toasts, and other dishes. This way, children can learn that vegetables could be served in more than one way, allowing them to acquire the taste slowly.