Do your kids eat vegetables? Statistics show that they probably aren’t. Only 22% of children ages 2 to 5 meet government recommendations for vegetable consumption, according to researchers from Ohio State University. It only gets worse as children get older: Just 16% of children ages 6 to 11 meet the government’s guidelines. Only 11% meet those requirements at ages 12 to 18.
In the study of more than 6,000 kids and teens, about a third of vegetable consumption was fried potatoes products, such as French fries and a little more than a third of the fruit consumption was fruit juice (pure sugar, pretty much.) If you don’t include those, the percentages get even lower.
Here’s how to increase your children’s vegetable consumption:
1. Start early. Studies have proven children to prefer foods their mother ate during pregnancy, as they could taste their (foods’) flavors through amnionic fluid. If you want your kids to eat vegetables, eat them yourself.
2. Breastfeed. And eat vegetables. Breast milk has tiny bits of flavors of the foods that the mother eats. If you eat vegetables while breastfeeding, chances are these flavors will already be familiar to your child.
3. Try to avoid commercially prepared jarred baby food. Taste one of these jars: they taste nothing like real vegetables. Your baby will most likely never know what veggies taste like if all you feed them is jarred food.
4. Use your blender. Blender is your best friend for making killer sauces made of raw vegetables. You can blend kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions: pretty much anything if you add more “child friendly ” things, such as olive oil, sundried tomatoes, tofu, beans and even cream cheese and yellow cheese. This way you can make sandwich spreads and pasta sauces full of hidden vegetables.
5. Bake wisely. A grated zucchini or carrot can be added to virtually any cake, cookie or muffin recipe.Some recipes can take a lot more than one carrot: experiment!
6. Do your kids love ketchup? Blend a few fresh tomatoes, add store-bought ketchup and put it back in the jar. Desperate, I know. But it works!
7. Put veggies in all of their favorite dishes. And don’t feed them their favorite dishes often, to retain their excitement about these dishes. Put some broccoli florets into mac and cheese, add a few zucchini slices to pizza, grind some kale and add it to breadcrumbs you use for whatever you are frying.
8. The less refined and processed foods your kids consume, the more likely they are to eat vegetables. If you limit soda, sugar, fatty dairy products, meats and processed foods your child may come to you and ask for a carrot!
9. Dips work like magic, because they are fun. Come up with a few simple healthy dips and serve those with an assortment of vegetables. I am very much for hummus, apple tahini and almond butter.
10. Sometimes, children are so used to eating sugar that it’s the only thing that works. Choose sweet vegetables and serve them with healthy sweets: hey, it’s better than nothing! Grated carrots with raisins and a drop of olive oil makes a decent salad and sweet potato puree with some maple syrup and cinnamon is still made of vegetables.
11. Smoothies are your best friend. A couple of bananas, some milk, a spoonful of peanut butter and nobody knows there are three kale leaves and half a zucchini in that glass! Smoothie can become a daily tradition specifically for very veggie-resistant kids.
12. Shop with your kids. While your are buying the veggies, explain where they grew. Let them smell the produce. Let them pick the veggies they want to eat tonight.
13. Cook with your kids. Kids are a lot more likely to eat something they made themselves. Additionally, not eating out often saves your children from consuming too much junk food.
14. Institute the “one bite” rule. Even if they don’t like it, they must take one bite of it, before they say “No.” They may actually end up liking it!
15. My friend once dipped broccoli florets in chocolate. This is not the weird part. The weird part is that her children ate it! Whatever works, works: be inventive.
Do you have any good tips on how to make kids eat vegetables?