Turning Kids into Veggie Lovers
By: Jacqueline Hennessy
You know that it’s crucial for vegetables to play a starring role in your child’s meals. Better than any pill or supplement, fruit and veg are your child’s most readily absorbed source of key vitamins, nutrients and fibre. They’re also one of your child’s best insurance policies against obesity and disease. Here are some strategies from the pros that will get your child on the veggie track for life.
Creating Healthy Eating Habits
Set a good example. Check out your own eating habits first. “If dad is saying ‘ewwwww!’ the kids will say ‘ewwww!’” says Phoenix registered dietitian Melinda Johnson. “The most important thing you can do is eat a wide variety of veg yourself without begging, pleading or even talking about it. Eventually, you’ll have a healthy eater on your hands.”
Break out the dips and dressings. Young taste buds are especially sensitive. The solution? A bit of fat and flavor, whether it’s olive or canola oil, butter, dip or dressing. “Fat actually cuts down the bitterness of some vegetables,” explains Johnson, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson. So break out some trans-fat free dressing or bean dip with those broccoli florets and carrot sticks. Or sautée your carrots or Brussels sprouts in a bit of butter with a pinch of brown sugar, honey or balsamic vinegar – the combination of fat with a bit of sweetness is amazing.
Take it easy. “Pushing your child to eat vegetables almost always backfires,” says Boston Registered Dietitian Patricina Vasconcellos. The result, she says, is that children will learn to dislike vegetables and see it as something you only eat if forced, or if you just want to get at the cupcake or cookies that were offered as a bribe. Instead, offer kids the option of spitting out the food if they don’t like it. If they’re gotten used to the idea of a particular veggie on their plate, odds are that, over time, they’ll eat it.
Keep it simple. “Don’t break your back making a creamed spinach Florentine,” says Johnson. “And many kids don’t like their foods mixed up; they like them all separated.” says Johnson. Often, too many flavors and textures are the stumbling block. “When it comes to any kid food, simpler is always better.”
- Get your kids involved. Whether it’s letting your toddler pick out that ultraviolet kale that caught her eye in the produce aisle, or encouraging your 7-year-old to nurture your backyard tomato vine, getting your kids involved in choosing, growing or cooking the family’s vegetables is always a good idea. “Getting kids to participate is empowering for them,” says American Dietetic Association spokesperson Vasconcellos, “and gives them choice and control over what they eat.” Kids will be proud of what they’ve accomplished in the kitchen, and the more they’re involved in the selection and cooking process, the more excited they’ll be about whatever is on their plate.
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