Pay your kids to eat their greens? Try these tips instead.

We’ve all been there.  Sat at the table watching junior push two kernels of sweetcorn and one lonely green bean around the plate whilst trying to ignore the sound of retching.

It’s a constant battle and one that can only be won by persistence and, possibly, according to a new survey, bribery.

Caitlin & Ieuan trying out Infruition Water Bottles
The terrible twosome trying out Infruition Water Bottles

We get to the stage where we will do anything to get the little blighters to ingest something that actually grew and later on I’ll tell you my huge mistake when it came to getting those veggies into my kids.

But should we be bribing them with cash?  This is a suggestion that comes from Tam Fry, head spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum and honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation.

Fry’s proposal comes hot on the heels of a YouGov survey last week that revealed some worrying statistics. One was that almost a third (29%) of parents in Scotland have abandoned adding greens to their children’s plate at some stage.

In a way, it’s unsurprising: in another 2015 study, only 21% of Scottish adults were said to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

And I’m sure the rest of the UK is no different.

Mr Fry’s proposal is likely to divide opinion.

We know how good vegetables are for us and their importance in maintaining our health and avoiding diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes but this has little meaning for our kids at their age.

Of course, parents can be extremely devious at sneaking in veggies, hiding cauliflower under cheese sauce, for instance, or chopping tiny nuggets of vegetables into soups, quiches and casseroles.

The recently-launched Eat Better Feel Better campaign from Healthier Scotland aims to encourage parents to save money by eating healthier food. It also lists recipe ideas to ‘beat the teatime tantrums’, a downloadable Food Lab which introduces fun into the meal prepping process and information about healthy eating events throughout Scotland.

Or you might want to try smoothies. A “milkshake” can hide a multitude of fruit and veg plus, thanks to more sophisticated blenders these days, the fibre, vitamins and minerals remain intact.

To improve the taste, you can add real fruit, natural fruit juice or coconut milk to the blender along with your chopped vegetables.

Here are some tips you might want to try:

Superhero veg to the rescue

Give the vegetables superhero names – mad I know but we renamed spinach “carrot guardian” and Ieuan ate it. That might just be my son though.

Hide veg everywhere

Hide veg in as many sauces as you can. The Husband whips up a meatball sauce which contains any leftover veggies he finds in the fridge and the kids haven’t cottoned on to this yet.

Soups and stews are your friend

The kids will eat soup if there’s plenty of warm crusty bread to dip in it.

Don’t fuss

If you create a battle of wills you’ll be sat there a long time.

Model the behaviour you want to see 

You can hardly insist your kids eat their veg if you’re a stranger to salad yourself.

Caitlin & Ieuan Hobbis
Well they seem to be growing ok….

Get kids to help with the cooking

Teach your kids about the importance of healthy eating by involving them in food preparation.  A home-made pizza is easy to make and can be decorated with veggies such as cherry tomatoes and peppers.

Make food portions manageable

Don’t swamp their plates with huge portions.  It’s easier to get the kids eating veg if you start off with small, manageable portions.  Notice I said ‘easier’

Make food fun

…. although my Potato of Doom was not exactly a crowd pleaser

Linda Hobbis' Potato of Doom - A Jacket Potato In The Shape Of A Hedgehog
Look, I tried, OK?

Don’t give up

Continue to serve up veg in the hope that they will eventually try them.

Play the long game

Remember they’ll probably grow up to love veg.  After all you did, didn’t you?

My biggest mistake?


Not serving them foods with home-made gravies and sauces early enough. It’s too easy to serve up fish fingers, chips and peas with just a dash of tomato sauce, but they get used to ‘dry’ food.

If you can get them used to gravy then you’re just a blender away from supplementing it with veggies.

Ieuan loves his gravy now and I wish I’d got him eating it a long time ago!

If all else fails, there are also numerous ranges of supplements such as Super Kids’ Vibrance, which is formulated by green food specialist Vibrant Health. This one was the winner of a 2016 Taste for Life Essentials Award and is packed with nutrient-rich greens, essential trace minerals and a high number of probiotics and digestive enzymes. It also provides a dozen vitamins, including A, C and D3.

Caitlin Hobbis eating Shepherd's Pie
Caitlin has no idea how many veggies she’s eating

Ultimately, conditioning kids to eat their greens requires a conscious effort – and it’s best to get youngsters into the habit of munching veggies from an early age.

If you don’t, you may well find yourself having to take Mr Fry’s advice and cough up the cash – which in Ieuan’s case would be very, very expensive indeed.

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