You can lead a kid to veggies, but can you make him eat?
Who hasn’t struggled getting their child to eat a balanced diet? It’s a common problem that many parents are faced with.
No more hiding!
Veggies, that is. While mealtime can be a struggle, research shows that hiding veggies is not the best way to promote lifelong healthy eating. In order to do that, we have to build a child’s taste for veggies that will last him or her well into adulthood, choosing healthy choices for life. A hidden veggie just won’t do that.
So what does work? These tips, for starters.
1. Get them in the kitchen
Studies show that kids who are involved in meal preparation have a higher preference for vegetables and healthy food choices. Plus, measuring ingredients can help with math skills too! Get the kids in the kitchen to help out as much as possible, and choose age-appropriate tasks. Good tasks for little ones include tearing lettuce, mixing ingredients, and helping to set the table.
2. Bring them to the store
Take your child with you to the farmers’ market or health food store—shopping destinations that you know will be filled with healthy choices where you can’t go wrong—and let your child take the reins. Show him all the different choices, and let him choose his favourite veggies to serve at dinner. It’s a small sacrifice to make, but it can let your child feel more in control of the situation, and hopefully more excited to eat something he chose.
3. Think colour!
Research shows that kids are drawn to visually appealing foods, so opt for lots of colourful choices (from nature, not from a box, of course! Think orange carrots, purple beets, red tomatoes, green beans, and blueberries) and use fun, figurative designs if possible.
4. Try, try, and try again
What do you do if your child declares she hates asparagus? Serve it again. And if she hates it the second time? Serve it again. It can take anywhere from 10 to 15 times for a child to taste or develop a taste for a certain food, so have patience. A lot of it.
5. Get a good multi
Okay, this tip is a bit of a cheat, but it’s important nonetheless. Fill any gaps in a picky eater’s diet by supplementing with a high quality children’s multivitamin. Health food store staff can help recommend a good brand, but be sure to check with your health care practitioner before starting a new supplement—as always!