Sometimes I have to pinch myself for being so lucky to have 4 kids who — for the most part — eat a healthy diet. I must admit, I’m particularly proud about persevering through tantrums and food strikes. And for being so damn determined to excite them about eating their vegetables. True, my 6-year-old still only eats the spinach if he’s starving or if he knows there’s a cookie for dessert. But, hey, it’s a good early start.
Parents are constantly asking me how they can end the mealtime struggle by getting their kids to eat more greens, so I created an entire masterclass on the topic! Watch as I dish up my success strategies for finally getting your kids to eat vegetables.
1. Make sure your kids are actually hungry at meal times
In the book Nudge, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein write of an experiment they did in a school cafeteria to try and determine whether the placement of a particular food at the buffet line influenced kids’ choices. Sure enough, choices displayed at eye level and that were the most accessible were chosen most often. The takeaway? Make sure your kids are really hungry when they sit down for a meal, and offer veggies or the healthiest option first. If healthy foods are the most accessible and their little tummies are famished, they will be more likely to eat what you’re offering.
If healthy foods are the most accessible and their little tummies are famished, they will be more likely to eat what you’re offering.
2. Educate and model
At some stage (and before you know it) your kids will be big enough to open the fridge and eat whatever they want. While they are young, educate them about the importance of healthy eating. If you model healthy eating habits you set a more powerful example than just talking about healthy ideals.
3. Be sneaky
The well-known Sneaky Chef is great at slipping nutritious ingredients into foods kids love. She has cute ideas, like make-ahead purees that you can add to various recipes. Word of caution: If you only sneak veggies into “kid foods” like mac and cheese with cauliflower, they will still crave those foods instead of real, whole foods. Read on for more tips on how to get them to eat wholesome foods in their real form.
Doesn’t your food taste better when it looks good? We’ve been watching “Masterchef” on TV together and my kids have been asking me to plate up their dinners Masterchef-style. Serve dinner for your kids in any creative fashion. Or better yet, get the little ones involved in the styling.
I’m not a big fan of rewarding healthy food choices with a treat, but, sometimes as parents, we resort to desperate measures! I like to think of it less as a bribe and more of a compromise. Something like: “If you finish your broccoli, you can have an ice pop for dessert.” One of my favorite things to do with my kids is to take them all out for a special make-your-own salad lunch date and then splurge on something fun afterward.
6. Get rid of the garbage
Do you have loads of unhealthy options within their reach? If you were six and given the option of green veggies or a bowl of crispy french fries, which would you choose? Create a clean environment at home and you won’t have to deal with the added challenge of resisting the temptation.
7. Make it taste good
Let’s assume they have agreed to try the veggies, then they’d better taste good or it may be the last time they try them for a while! I often see parents who make the chicken and potatoes taste amazing and then boil the broccoli until it’s tasteless! Get creative — read a recipe if you have to — and make sure you get it right and the food tastes delicious!
8. Don’t stress about the things that you cannot control
All that truly matters is that you try your best to give your kids a healthy start in life. Model the type of person you want your kids to become inside and outside the kitchen, and enjoy your healthy adventures!
This blog would not be complete without sharing a few recipes of my kids’ favorite foods. Check out my any veggie frittata recipe for an easy crowd-pleasing breakfast. Or, for something sweet and delicious, my almond blueberry muffins.
What types of foods do you make for your kids that they love? I would love to hear from you!