by Lauren Follett, BA, RHN, Registered Nutritionist
We all know vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly and avoid illness. It’s no secret most kids have a problem with eating vegetables. Is that our fault? Do we teach kids to hate veggies?
Kids are smart, and have probably picked up on the fact adults cheer and will reward them for eating their veggies. So what do they do? Avoid eating them. Vegetables should simply be treated as one of the food groups that we eat. Here are a few strategies to help your kids eat their veggies:
- Serve vegetables at the beginning of the meal when they’re the most hungry
- Don’t hide veggies in a meal; instead provide healthy flavourful dips and dressings to spice them up. (Avoid store-bought ranch dressing and dips as they are full of sodium, bad fats and preservatives.)
- Steam sweet potatoes, carrots and broccoli and stir in some healthy fats such as coconut oil or grass-fed butter; this will improve the taste and the absorption of nutrients.
It’s also important to teach your kids healthy eating habits to avoid issues with food in the future. Here are a few strategies to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food:
- Avoid giving your child loads of snacks throughout the day; they should sit down at the table hungry so they’re interested in the healthy meal choices in front of them.
- Provide variety, but not too much. Provide your child with two to three healthy choices for meals. If they don’t like any of them, then they’re obviously not hungry enough. Take it away, and try again later.
- Don’t force them to finish their plate. Watch for signs of being satisfied (playing with food, dropping food on the floor, distraction), and put away the rest of later. This will help them develop proper cues for being hungry and full, and potentially save them from issues with food, weight gain and overeating in the future.
- Introduce a food at least 15 times before making the statement that they don’t like a particular food.
- Don’t applaud your kids for eating. Do we demand applause when we eat our lunch? Instead ask them questions about their food: what does it taste like? Is it bitter, sweet, creamy, or crunchy? What colour is it?
Transitioning from the baby phase to toddler phase can be tricky when it comes to eating. When our children are babies, we are programmed to make sure they have enough food so they grow and sleep properly. When our babies become toddlers they are transitioning into amazing, smart little human beings who are just beginning to discover the world around them, and this includes food. We need to fight the urge to make sure they’re full by whatever means necessary—such as giving them unhealthy choices if they refuse to eat their veggies. It’s our job to guide them, and make sure they are getting everything they need to grow up healthy and strong and develop a healthy relationship with food.