How to help your kids eat more fruit and veggies (Dull title, exciting quest!)

No really, it’s exciting. It doesn’t need to take over your life (nor should it) But while we try and foster the best development of their mind, spirit, self-esteem….let us not forget their body! So here are some tips. I aint no expert, and certainly not the perfect example, but some of these may work for you, just like they have (sometimes) worked for me!

1. Sneak ’em  I was a stealth onion and garlic user in my kitchen for many a long month, it always got blended in, since Ellie found a piece of onion in her food and said “eeeeuh, what’s this thing with LINES on it??!!” You can sneak all sorts of things in when it’s blended in- celery, red lentils, peppers, onion, garlic, and all sorts of other delights.. It all makes for a more harmonious mealtime 🙂  And they are eating foods that they would normally fuss over. I know of people who sneak beetroot or courgette into their chocolate cake too.

2. Don’t sneak ’em That said, neither do you want to be always hiding your veggies like they are some dirty secret 🙂 One day when Ellie was telling me how “allergic” she was to onion (ie- she hates it) I felt duty bound to inform her that almost everything I made had onion and garlic in. I told her I blended it in, and it was actually delicious, and at that she was content. Sometimes we sneak lots of veggies in to get them an extra nutritious meal. But also, the point is not just vitamins (for me) The point is for them to get used to eating different things at the table in a group and in some cases, realise that they are actually tastier than they supposed. To do this, they need to confront their greens, as greens! Or whatever they may be. So don’t always sneak ’em….

3.Grow ’em I wrote a post about this once (here) I am not much of a gardener. While I blame my small rented garden,  I know that amazing things can be done in small spaces if you put your mind to it. One summer we did a lot of growing, and it was the only time Amelia ate cucumber. “I don’t like cucumber…but I am having some of this..because it’s OURS!” (And so she did) My friends little boy eats french beans raw off the vine- she said it took a couple of years but now her sons (aged 5 and 3) mosy round the veggie patch and forage themselves an on-the-spot-salad. They definitely take a special interest in food they have helped raise up.As do we all  🙂

4. Eat ’em   I don’t think we can expect children to share our taste for everything, as our palates seem to mature to appreciate bitter, stronger flavours with time, but I think the more they see us enjoy eating veggies, pulses, beans, salads, fruits, nuts and seeds, the more likely it is that they will eat them too. With very young children this is definitely true- haven’t you noticed how they always want what’s on your plate?

It took my girls a long, LONG time before they would even consider trying a green smoothie, even though I insisted it didn’t taste funny, but day after day they saw me enjoying them and finally curiosity got the better of them. For breastfeeding mothers, as I understand it, they will be more likely to appreciate a wide range of flavours if you have been eating those things while nursing, as it actually changes the subtle flavour of your milk.

5. Market ’em I know someone who serves their children “cheese on the trees” (broccoli trees with a little melted cheese on top) One halloween we did “Spooky trees on green noodles” (click for details) and somehow they were more excited to eat purple cauliflower and romanesco broccoli because that day they were not cruciferous veggies, they were “spooky trees”.  My daughters love frozen strawberries stuck on a cocktail stick because it’s like a lollipop (their invention) Green smoothies taste better in a wine glass or with a straw (fact!) I appreciate that these marketing tips work better for smaller children, but you may be surprised……

6.Blend ’em, juice’em  You would not believe how excited my 2 year old son is to feed things into the juicer. He drinks the greenest concoctions on occasion. “More green juice” he said once. He never said it again….but- HOW COOL  🙂  And if you read this blog regularly you know how I feel about blended greens. It may not be a huge quantity but it’s always great when your child can have a small handful of leaves per day- and enjoy it!

7. Chop ’em fine.  “Rainbow rice” or couscous (recommended- brown rice or wholewheat couscous)  Throw in finely chopped carrot, peas, corn, red pepper, broccoli, red cabbage(prawns always go down well too!)- in short- whatever you have, making sure there are plenty of colours and that they like most of it, though not necessarily all of it 🙂 When they invariably sniff out what they don’t like (because we all know they can spot an unwanted particle at 50 paces)- just say “Come on, it’s so small, you won’t even notice- mix it up with some other stuff you like!”

8. Have ’em help. In the same way that they take more interest when they have grown the plant, sometimes it can definitely make a difference when they have helped cook or prepare it. Have them choose out something new (or familiar) and look up a recipe online and help you make it.

9.Rotate ’em  Don’t they say a child has to be exposed, what is it,up to 7 times to something before they can get a taste for it? Just because they don’t seem to like something, doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t try again later. I am seriously amazed that chickpeas are growing on Ellie, she used to almost shed tears if they turned up, and the other day she was shovelling them in without a word. I mean, actually shovelling. (They were in rice. It’s all about packaging?!) We can all think of foods that we used to dislike that have slowly grown on us over time.

Finally, number 10: Don’t expect ’em to like everything. We all have our personal preferences and tastes even as adults. I guess we need to respect that too. I am sure you will find that balance in your home. Meanwhile:

Speak up! Share if you have any tips, thoughts, insights or ideas- I am sure we can all learn a lot from each other.

 

Please feel free to share ideas that have worked for you and your family.

With love. x

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