Do you spend mealtime trying to convince your child to eat green beans? Does your kiddo clamp their mouth shut as soon as they see a piece of broccoli on their plate?
(And would you rather be eating your dinner, than dealing with all this drama?)
Getting kids to eat their veggies is a daily struggle for a lot of families. I hear it all the time – they spend hours cooking a healthy meal, only to have their kids refuse to try even one bite of any vegetable in sight.
As a mom, I know how frustrating it can be to have kids turn up their noses at food that you know tastes good, and is good for them.
So I can understand why some parents just give up on serving vegetables altogether. Yes, in the short-term this may make mealtimes less stressful. But it’s important to know that in the long-term, this lack of exposure can contribute to poor eating habits and a lifelong aversion to vegetables. Pretty much the opposite of what you want!
So instead of giving up, I urge you to get to the root of the problem.
Here are some of the most likely causes behind their vegetable loathing:
There is too much pressure
I know some parents think they can persuade their child to eat vegetables. They beg, they plead. They try to convince them that beets taste like candy or that spinach will give them super powers. They force them to eat “just one bite” or refuse to let them leave the table until the vegetables are gone.
Talk about pressure!
Often, something as simple as just relaxing at the table can make a huge difference in a child’s attitude towards vegetables. Focus on spending time together as a family and catching up on the day instead of what and how much they’re eating. (In fact food should be the last thing discussed at the dinner table. Go figure.)
It may take a bit of time, but once a child feels a little more chill and the pressure is off, they’ll start to explore food on their own. And eventually, they’ll feel relaxed enough to experiment with some of the vegetables they previously scorned.
It’s a control thing
Remember as a kid when your parents told you not to do something, it made you want to do it even more? Yep, kids will pretty much do the opposite of what they think you want them to do.
Think of it this way – kids feel a lack of control over most aspects of their life. But one thing they do have control over is what goes into their mouth. And they use this to their advantage.
If you tell them they must eat their vegetables, they most certainly will not. Encouraging kids to try new foods is great, but forcing them to do so will likely have the opposite effect that it is intended to.
So instead, just continue to serve them a variety of vegetables, multiple times a day and give them the option of whether they eat them or not. You’ll be surprised at how quickly their attitude will change once the satisfaction of a power struggle is removed.
They taste awful
How many adults do you know that absolutely love plain steamed or overcooked vegetables? Sure, we tolerate them (because we’re trying to be healthy), but we’re certainly not lining up for second helpings.
If our goal is for kids to like vegetables – not just tolerate them – we need to make sure they actually taste good!
So try roasting or sautéing them. Serve them topped with olive oil or butter. Add them to a meal that your child already loves. Vegetables can be absolutely delicious – so serve them to your kids that way.
You’re not eating them
For kids, mom and dad are the ultimate role models. They pay close attention to everything we do and want to be exactly like us. (We are pretty awesome, aren’t we?)
So, if you are serving your kids vegetables but then don’t eat them yourself, they’re definitely going to notice. And they aren’t going to eat them either.
It’s really important that we demonstrate the eating habits that we want our kids to develop. For example, children need to see eating vegetables as a normal, everyday occurrence. This means everybody in the family eating a wide variety of different vegetables on a daily basis – even if you yourself are still learning to like them. The added bonus? You’ll increase your own veggie repertoire!
Remember, kid’s aren’t born vegetable lovers. So, it’s our job as parents to help them learn to love and appreciate them. Don’t give up – it’s never too late to raise a healthy eater.