Among the many challenges a parent has to deal with is getting their kids to eat their vegetables. Despite the fact that toddlers should eat a suggested 1 cup per day, children about a half a cup more, and teens 2/12 to three cups, researchers reported that many kids in the U.S. go days without eating their veggies. The bitter taste and fear of trying new and unfamiliar foods (neophobia) are among the top reasons youngsters aren’t down with eating vegetables, so here are some fun and creative ways to familiarize your kids with different types of veggies while making them fun and tasty to eat in the process.
Head To The Farmers Market
Ditch the grocery store and head to the farmers market, where you can get your kids excited about new and interesting vegetables. Let them pick out their own, and be sure to explain their health benefits in age-appropriate language such as, “These carrots will help you read your books better.” Other benefits include teaching your kids about sustainable practices, helping them develop healthy emotional eating habits through real food, meeting the people who actually grew the produce, and being able to cook their personal picks back at the house.
Grow A Garden
Depending on the environment in which you live, growing your own garden can be a fun, hands-on way for your kids to become educated about the growing process while making them more enthused about eating the fruits of their labor, so let them choose a few of their favorites to grow. It can also be fun to grow a garden based on a favorite meal such as pizza or pasta — think tomatoes, basil, peppers, and onions — so you can plan a celebratory meal when everything is ready to pick. If your yard is too small, opt for growing your veggies in oversized containers instead.
Encourage Veggie-Friendly Activities
Gardening isn’t the only veggie-related activity out there. After you go shopping, have your kids help you sort the vegetables by size, color, shape, growing method, etc. Throw a tasting party by cutting up small pieces of various types of produce for your little ones to try — this can help you with meal planning, too. Discuss the various countries vegetables come from, why they thrive in that environment, and how they are transported to the States. Anything goes providing you’re increasing exposure and pleasure.
Cook Kid-Friendly Vegetable Dishes
Since taste is an issue for many kids, making kid-friendly vegetable recipes can make them more palatable — they may actually even find a favorite! For example, try making french fries out of sweet potatoes instead of traditional spuds, or experiment with veggie noodles. Sneak in some cooked cauliflower into their mashed potatoes (or try a 100 percent florette version), or mushrooms or carrot puree into burger meat. Add vegetables to gooey favorites like grilled cheese and quesadillas. Skewer raw veggies on a kebab stick to make them more fun to eat — just make sure you have a tasty, yet healthy dip to go with them. Toss steamed vegetables in a healthy marinade or sauce to disguise any bitterness. When it comes to jazzing up veggies, the possibilities are endless, so put a little effort into the preparation so you can see progress with your kids.
It’s important that you’re setting an example for your children by participating in healthy eating practices so that your kids can find the discipline to do the same. Just make sure you’re not labeling other foods as “bad,” as this can promote disordered eating or a food phobia. Balance should be the theme when discussing dietary habits with your children.
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