This week I’m starting my first weekly #TuesdayTip on parenting-related topics. I’ll share parenting tips from child psychologists and experts or some tricks that have worked for us. This week I’m kicking it off with a popular one – How do I get my kid to eat vegetables??
After months and months of coaxing, bribing, and downright begging, I realized the best way to get my kids to eat those green (and often unpopular) veggies is to take advantage of their hunger. It’s easy and convenient to give them cheddar bunnies or fruit snacks or anything that will provide a sugar induced coma. But try to make them eat a healthy veggie snack? Forget it, they give us the finger. To avoid the drama and “snack bag habit” I recommend the following early on:
Just before lunch or dinner time when they are happily playing, hand them a bowl of green beans, apples, or whatever veggie/fruit you choose. The combination of them being in a good mood and being hungry is a great formula for success. I love this tactic because I know they get their vegetables in first, and because they are hungry, they often ask for more. However, I DO NOT advise you to try this when they are on the verge of a meltdown or in the middle of one. Hangry children are not fun to deal with.
Other tips that work:
- Avoid drama. Don’t make meal time a fight. Kids should have a positive association with fruits and veggies, so forcing them to eat something they don’t want to eat will only cause more problems down the line.
- Encourage them to try new foods – our go-to phrase is “just try it, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it.” They seem to appreciate the lax approach because it gives them a sense of control, and in the process they’re trying new things and often discover that they actually like something they thought they hated.
- Exposure is key. Offer them one fruit and one veggie at lunch and one fruit and one veggie at dinner EVERY DAY. Seeing it every day and learning that they are part of every meal will make it habitual for them.
- Model good behavior. Don’t forget to show them how much you love to eat broccoli too (Husband has a particularly hard time with cauliflower, but he puts on a good show for the kiddos).
- Make fruits/veggies accessible. We ALWAYS have a bowl full of fruit and vegetables within reach. Healthy food is always OK in my house (except after bedtime).
If you have a baby, one thing to think about is introducing fruits and vegetables early on. Butter Cheeks tries EVERYTHING (even sushi), and I think it’s due to what he was introduced to as a baby. Flash, on the other hand, is much pickier because we were more conservative with the foods we gave him as a baby. If it’s OK with your pediatrician, I highly recommend that you go veggie bonkers! If possible, let your baby experience the different textures without mashing everything.
Good luck! Let me know how these work for you.