Eat your veggies! This message is loud and clear and we have all heard it. Magazine covers shout the vegetable message as we wait in line at the grocery store. The National Cancer Institute tells us to eat more vegetables. Doctors want us to add more vegetables to our meals.
Fresh vegetables taste amazing and are often a great bargain, such as the two-pound bags of whole carrots. Zucchini and cabbage are also some of the best fresh veggie buys in the store. Frozen, store brand vegetables are delicious and healthy. Canned vegetables are convenient and low cost (choose those with less than 300 mg of sodium per serving).
“My child is picky and will not eat any vegetables”.
Do NOT force or punish your child into eating vegetables (or any food for that matter).
This includes not only trying to push the unwanted bite of veggie into your child’s mouth but also making them sit at the table until they have eaten the vegetable. Many well- meaning parents have tried this, and have found that it does NOT work.
Do NOT label your child as being “disrespectful” or “uncooperative” for not eating vegetables.
It is SO frustrating when kids refuse to try even one bite of the vegetable. Your child is not trying to be difficult though. Some children worry a lot about gagging if they try the vegetable and really hate it. If the veggie smells funny to the child or if it has a weird texture, they might be afraid to try it. Refusal to try the veggies does NOT count as bad behavior!
DO consistently include vegetables with meals.
When veggies show up as a normal part of meals, kids learn to expect them. Seeing the veggies repeatedly (without pressure to eat them) stirs curiosity and may eventually lead to a taste!
DO eat veggies yourself.
Kids learn that veggies are for are EVERYONE when they see their parents and siblings eating them.
DO make the veggies taste delicious!
A bit of real butter, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of dried herbs can totally upgrade an otherwise boring steamed vegetable. Replace over-cooked, “mushy” vegetables (often described by kids as “nasty” or “gross”) with roasted carrots, zucchini, onions and Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. The right dressing can turn a “so – so” salad into a big hit.
DO find ways to add veggies to familiar, well – liked foods.
Add mashed, cooked cauliflower to mac and cheese. Grated zucchini and carrots blend nicely into spaghetti sauce. Thicken soups by adding cooked, pureed veggies of any kind
DO encourage your child to help select and prepare vegetables.
Many parents have discovered that their kids are more willing to try vegetables when they have helped pick them out and prepare them. Kids LOVE being in the kitchen.
Try making this fun cauliflower “popcorn” recipe from Chop Chop cooking magazine.
Start your veggie adventure today!
Written by Jenny Favret, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program