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. Yep, vegetables for kids is one of life’s great challenges.
It’s a constant battle and one that can only be won by persistence and, possibly, bribery.
|The terrible twosome back in 2017
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 was made a few years ago by Tam Fry, head spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum and honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation. And it certainly divided opinion at the time.
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.
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.
Vegetables for kids – it’s not completely impossible!
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 friends
The kids will eat soup if there’s plenty of warm crusty bread to dip in it.
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.
|Well, they seemed 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.
|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 kids’ vitamins you can try, although ideally your kids should be getting their vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet.
|Caitlin had no idea how many veggies she was 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.