Full transparency here: I'm NOT a mom and I don't have kids (yet!). Now, I know what you're thinking! What the heck could I possibly know about getting kids to eat veggies?! Believe it or not...a lot! Mom's in my practice constantly tell me about the guilt (and frustration!) they feel over their kids diet. We all know how important veggies are but it can be really tough to know how to effectively incorporate them.There's no doubt that kids are tricky when it comes to food, especially veggies. I know this to be true of even the best little eaters (many raised by fellow nutritionists). So moms - don't be so hard on yourself 😊
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I have done the legwork. I've researched and read all sorts of articles & books on this topic all in an effort to help the frustrated mom's in my practice. I'm sure that many of you have come across the same tips that I have from various experts: keep meal times stress-free, lead by example, introduce new foods slowly. All valuable points. But I wanted to hear some first person accounts - real experiences. So I went straight to the source. I talked with the lovely mamma's in my inner circle to find out what works for them and their kidlets.
I've simplified it down into 4 easy take aways for you that are tried, tested & true.
- Dip! 🎤When I dip you dip we dip 🎤 Seriously though - dip! Pair your veggies with delicious (and healthy) dip recipes (like these or maybe this). Kids are far more likely to consume the veggies you put out if you also include tasty dips. Because dipping is fun! Speaking of F U N - infusing your veggies with a little creativity also works wonders. For instance, try serving: hummus with raw veggie skewers/ stuffed cucumber or celery boats/Mini veggie sandwiches - think finger foods.
- Serve veggies immediately after school or any sort of physical activity - this is the time that your kids are much more likely to devour anything that's in front of them (without putting up too much of a fight) because let's face it - they're starving. I've had moms in my practice serve a bowl of steamed broccoli using this technique with success. Now - realistically, I get that a bowl of steamed broccoli may not cut it for most kids. Again though, this is the time to put your veggie platter out, maybe some kale chips (I love Solar Raw brand! Kids may be reluctant to try things like kale, but serving them up as a savoury chip may help entice them) or even a green smoothie (stay with me!).
- Speaking of smoothies! Tons of veggies can be hidden behind the sweetness of the fruit in a smoothie. For example, spinach is virtually undetectable in a smoothie because of its mild flavour. I know some kids can get icked out by the green colouring that so often comes from adding in various greens. Try naming your smoothie something your kid will want to try such as "Green Goblin" or "The Hulk" - I've seen it work many times over. If that's a no go then I suggest purchasing a greens powder from your natural health food store to ensure they're getting the nutrition they need. I love Genuine Health Kids+ because it contains over 25 organic fruits and veggies and turns the beverage this fun purple colour that kids prefer.
- Add veggies into anything you can! Mom's with the fussiest of eaters will appreciate this point. Try hiding extra veggies in pasta sauce (pureed of course for the texture junkies). If your little one will eat pesto try bulking it up with spinach - again super mild and undetectable. Add some shredded zucchini and/or carrot to your hummus. What kid doesn't love muffins and homemade loaves? If the recipe allows, add some shredded zucchini for a little nutrition boost.
I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking to yourself that your kid will never go for any of these. Here's the thing though - just try! You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. If your kids won't touch the veggie platter you served, the kale chips you bought or the smoothie you just blended, fine --- more nutrient-goodness for you (your bowels, skin & energy levels will thank you)! Going back to what so many experts suggest: keep it light and lead by example. Don't just try once and give up. Continue to serve them veggies. Show them how tasty it can be by actually eating it yourself. They watch you and absorb much more than you think. Educate them about why vegetables are so important to eat.
Get them involved in the kitchen - kids love to participate and they'll be far more likely to try something that they've spent time helping to prepare. It can be so rewarding.
Just remember - you've got this!
I wanna know! What's your secret weapon for getting your kiddies to eat their veggies?