If you’re a parent, you’ll probably know that getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a super huge challenge at times. No matter what we do, or how we try to sneak those nutritious vegetables into their meals, kids somehow manage to leave them behind.
So, if meal times have become a battle zone, let’s take a look at some useful tips and tricks to help you jazz up those vegetables, to start getting your children eating more of them!
#1 – Sprinkle some seasoning
No one likes bland, unseasoned veggies, least of all your kids! So, making sure you season vegetables to help bring out their best flavour is essential. But like all things in life, moderation is key – while adding an extra sprinkling of salt might appeal to your child’s taste buds by hiding the original taste of the vegetables, this isn’t the healthiest option in the long term.
Instead, turn to herbs and spices, a sprinkling of olive oil or even some salad dressing. Remember as well, that you can start with a higher amount of seasonings to begin with, then reduce the amount you add each time you cook up that meal.
#2 – Experiment with cooking methods
It’s also necessary to try variations of different cooking styles for your vegetables, as each will help bring out different textures and flavours. Many vegetables have natural sugars, so a longer and slower cooking method will bring these out. You can experiment with things like instant pot onions, which can produce a really sweet tasting onion compared to frying or roasting them.
The same goes for most other vegetables. For example, roasted carrots might be a tastier alternative to boiled ones, and why not wok toss your broccoli rather than boiling it? Take the time to try different methods to see what works best for their taste buds.
#3 – Simply add some sauces
Even us adults sometimes can’t resist some tomato sauce or mayonnaise here or there. Adding sauce as a dip for any kind of vegetable is a super easy way to make the meal more tasty for little ones. (Just make sure you’re monitoring the amount of sauce consumed as too much will defeat the point of the healthy meal in the first place).
And if you want to take this idea to the next level, homemade sauces are far more wholesome than store bought ones, as they are free from additives, colouring and preservatives. Get the kids involved with making the sauce to keep them occupied and help introduce them into the cooking world.
#4 – Make cooking fun
To build an appreciation of all kinds of food, get your children involved in the cooking process from an early age is a winning idea. Show them the basics of how you are creating their home cooked meal, then try to make cooking and dinner time as fun as possible.
Little kids may find it very rewarding when eating their dinner to know that they also helped to create it. Consider making games from the process and giving small rewards for helping make, and then eating their meal. Also keep in mind that if your child knows that a clear plate equals a nice dessert or some extra playtime then they are more likely to east everything up. Bribery works with adults so it almost certainly will work with children!
#5 – Make it look interesting
Now it’s time to test your creativity! Most kids are more likely to enjoy their vegetables if they look more fun and appealing on the plate. So, when you are platting up their meal, instead of just placing the vegetables on the side, get creative and design them into a familiar shape (like a smiley face) or an object! Your child is much more likely to eat those carrots if they are shaped as something fun on the plate rather than just dumped on the side.
Sometimes if there are particular vegetables your child dislikes that you are encouraging them to eat, you can always try and disguise what they are. Whether you add sauce or hide them in with the other ingredients, fingers crossed the little veggie detectives don’t even realise they’re eating them.
#6 – Spice Them Up
If your child loves a particular flavour or cuisine, maybe it’s spicy foods or having a sweet tooth, this is the perfect opportunity to try and add those vegetables when cooking. By incorporating the vegetables with the flavours your child enjoys most you’re more likely to see those veggies gobbled up easily.
#7 – Fussy Toddlers
Unfortunately, some children will simply not eat vegetables full stop. No matter what you try they will simply refuse to eat them. What can you do? For stubborn young ‘uns, winning them over can be hard but not impossible. The best dishes to try are macaroni cheese and spaghetti bolognaise where you can hide small pieces of vegetables within an overall yummy, tasty dish.
Spinach is another great vegetable to add to dishes – it’s a great source of iron and is vital for a growing toddler. Simply mix finely chopped spinach into to whatever you are cooking and it’ll wilt down (get hidden) quickly and easily. You can also use the water from boiled vegetables in gravies or sauces as the water will still hold some vitamins from the vegetables.
Just with any aspect of parenting, persistence is key, and you must not give up! Start from as young an age as possible to get them into good food habits that they can take into future years. Reward good food behaviour – instead of punishing them if they do not eat their vegetables, offer rewards and help educate them why it is so important.