Getting Kids to Eat More Veggies
I may be a nutritionist but from the age of 4 until I was 16, I was a fussy eater. Jam sandwiches were an exotic choice for me, vegetables weren’t a consideration and I’d have run a mile from meat and fish. My poor parents!
Thankfully, I came out of that phase and now there’s very little that I won’t eat.
If you can relate to the above or you’re concerned that your kids may decide one day that they just “don’t like” vegetables, here are some simple hacks to help you through the phase. And don’t forget to share your creations and ideas on Instagram and tag us @thebakingnutritionist and @dropchef.
Allow children to take part
Children are more likely to eat the vegetables on their plate if they’ve helped to create the meal. Why not let your little one help with washing the veg or with mixing up the salad bowl? With adult supervision, older children will gain a great sense of pride and responsibility if they can take part in the chopping or cooking.
For most of my childhood, my dinners were simply potatoes coupled with beans. Basic? Yes. Unhealthy? No. Beans are a source of fibre, protein and many vitamins and minerals that are important for a child’s growth and development.
Bean volcanoes are a fun and attractive way to serve up beans to children. Simply arrange mashed potatoes in the middle of a plate, core down in to the centre, fill up with beans and tomato sauce and watch their little faces light up! Or why not try offering sushi with chopsticks? Keep an eye out for sushi coming soon to the DropChef menu.
Just like when they take part in the cooking, kids are more likely to eat their veggies if they have grown them themselves. The Grow It Yourself (GIY) movement has been rejuvenated in recent years and there’s no reason why you can’t get involved.
If you have sufficient space, growing root vegetables and tubers such as carrots and potatoes can be very rewarding as they are vegetables we typically eat a lot of in Ireland. If you want to start very small, consider some window herbs which can be used to transform dishes from bland to out-of-this-world. I personally am a fan of growing my own basil for serving with tomato-based dishes such as pasta bake.
Either way, children will be impressed with their work and it is an opportunity for them to learn some responsibility.
Allow children to choose
As adults, we don’t like to be told what to do. In the same way, children don\’t like to be told what to eat. Letting children choose what vegetables they would like to see in their lunch or dinner will improve the likelihood of them eating a portion or two or their 5-a-day.
When doing the weekly shopping, ask your children what two or three vegetables they’d like to eat that week. They might choose the same ones over again or they may be adventurous. Don’t fret. The main thing is that they’re eating some veggies as opposed to eating no veggies.
Did someone just say Taco Tuesday? Attaching an element of fun to mealtimes will get children excited and help to distract them from the vegetables. Meatless Monday, Fakeaway Friday, Soup Saturday – the list is endless. DropChef offer a full vegetarian menu to inspire Meatless Monday meals.
It may be one of the oldest tricks in the book but blending continues to be an excellent way of getting nutritious veggies into children without fuss. While soup may be the obvious option, you can blend the sauce of curry and bolognaise too. Try cooking vegetables (onions, garlic, red pepper, courgette, etc.) with stock or passata and simmer until the vegetables are softened. Blend until smooth and return to the pan to cook with meat or simply serve with rice or pasta.
Similarly, blending vegetables into smoothies can go completely unnoticed. Try blitzing a banana, a handful of frozen berries, a handful of spinach and some milk or natural yogurt.
Amy Meegan, BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition, UCD