Most kids are not begging their parents for vegetables in the majority of households in America. More often I hear parents complain that they struggle with getting their children excited to eat fresh produce. Let’s talk about a few ways to get children energized about consuming more produce:
1. Choices are key! Set the stage that eating some of the vegetable for tonight’s dinner is not optional, but what is optional is which vegetable you want. Offer a few choices. “Would you like raw carrots or cooked? Do you prefer peas or broccoli? Does a green or red vegetable go better with tonight’s meal?” A sense of control over making the choice can help some children.
2. Veggies as the appetizer! We are always hungrier at the beginning of a meal than at the end. If you start the meal off with a course heavy in vegetables, then the entire family is more likely to eat a larger portion of them. This helps us fill up on the foods with more nutrient density.
3. Grocery store fun! Exploring is a natural part of growing up. Encourage your children to explore the many options available in the produce aisle at the grocery store. Let them see, touch, and smell the options. Give them a $5 bill and allow them to spend it on any produce they want and encourage them to pay for that sale at the cash register.
4. Internet explorers! Ask them to help research ways to work the produce they picked out at the grocery store into a meal that week. Allow them screen time to compare recipes and print out the one they finally select. Take them to a book store and allow them to select a new cookbook to delve into as a family.
5. Preparation involvement! Children love helping, especially in the kitchen. The more you involve them in the preparation of the meal the more likely they are to engage in eating the meal. This could mean asking for their help with putting the washed produce away, peeling the potatoes, or filling the pot with water for steaming. Pull up the step stool and let the hands-on creativity begin!
6. Snacking made easy! Always pre-wash your produce when you first bring it home from the market. This makes an apple that much easier to grab right out of the fridge and take a crunchy bite. Pre-portion vegetables in baggies or containers for snack time on the go. A snack baggie of baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or sliced yellow bell pepper is just as easy to take with you than a bag of chips or crackers.
Now that you’re armed with some helpful veggie eating tips, let the produce consumption begin!