My boys eat pretty voraciouslyeggs, hummus, even sushibut every time I clean up after dinner, I notice the vegetables left on their plates. No peas, no broccoli, no zucchini, no thanks. So! In an effort to prevent them from getting scurvy, I tracked down 8 ways to encourage kids to eat the good stuff…
1. Serve veggies first. My friend Abby gives her sons their vegetables before bringing out the rest of the food. That way, they scarf them up before filling up on pasta and bread. They actually like vegetables now, she reports.
2. Dont say anything. A new study reveals that serving food without giving any message about the goal (health! strong bones!) maximizes consumption of healthy food. So, when you bring out the vegetables, just put them on the plateJust a regular part of dinner, nothing to see hereand wait, and watch.
3. Make it a game. Radio producer Hillary Frank shared a brilliant tip: She got her kids to eat bell peppers by asking them to close their eyes, taking a bite and seeing if they could guess the right colorred, green or yellow. They would end up eating a bunch. You could do this with other foods, such as tomatoes or cauliflower.
4. Make sure theyre hungry. After all, say the French, hunger is the best seasoning. Also, if you serve a smaller main dish (say, just a bit of mac n cheese), theyll eat more of their side dish (say, garlic broccoli) because theyll still be hungry. This is both common sense and scientifically proven.
5. Employ marketing tactics. Andy and Jenny of Dinner: A Love Story half-jokingly rebrand veggies to make them sound yummier (and cuter). Brussels sprouts are baby lettuces. Dried cranberries are red raisins. Cauliflower is white broccoli. Says Andy: Its the oldest trick in advertising and thats not by accident.
6. Stay at the table longer. When theyre done eating, I try to get the boys to hang for a while, because I want them to know the joys of sitting around the dinner table and chatting (one of lifes great pleasures!). Ill start conversations I know theyll be interested in (what color they think our rental car will be, how funny that sandwich Halloween costume was). But Ive noticed that a great side effect is that they often end up absentmindedly munching the food they had originally refused.
7. Try seaweed. Have you seen those Trader Joes packets? My boys WOLF them up (the crackly paper-like texture is really appealing), and seaweed has tons of Vitamin A, as well as other vitamins and minerals.
8. If all else fails…sneak it. Obviously, the dream is to help kids learn to love vegetables, revel in them and seek them out. But theres nothing wrong with dropping a few frozen broccoli florets or a handful of peas into smoothies, or stirring sweet potato into mac n cheese. (And Seinfelds family does it, so youre in good company.)
Thoughts? Do your little ones like vegetables? Any tips? Or recipes? I would love to hear what has worked!
P.S. Why French kids eat everything, and six words to say to your child. Plus, two-ingredient pancakes.