Your child’s education begins in the home, so it only makes sense that you’re the most influential person in their healthy lifestyle, according to PTAOurChilden.org. During the first five years, children learn about proper food choices and portions based on their culture and family practices, says Rasmussen.edu. They see the food that you’re putting into your own body and they’re more likely to eat healthy themselves if it’s presented as an example of good behavior. By encouraging your child to eat fruits and vegetables and teaching them the benefits of healthy eating habits, you’re creating a solid foundation for them.
However, as many parents know, getting your kid to eat their veggies is sometimes easier said than done. So, what should you do if your kid is a picky eater or just flat out refuses to eat vegetables?
Offer your child a choice.
First of all, it’s important to remember that having patience for your child and yourself is key. By implementing changes slowly and incorporating their suggestions into meal planning, it’ll keep your kid interested and excited to create a healthy lifestyle, since they’ll be part of the family decision-making process. Ask them what they’d prefer to eat, instead of telling them what you’re making. For example, by asking if they’d prefer peas or asparagus, you’re giving them a choice, rather than telling them that you’re making peas and they need to eat the peas!
Make eating healthy fun.
Moms.com recommends making cute creations like ‘ants on a log,’ which is peanut butter on celery topped with raisins, or ‘a rainbow on the plate,’ which is sweet peppers cut into thin slices.
You can also get your kid involved in the food creation process. When you’re making these veggie burgers from Food.com, let your child divide the mixture into two or three bowls, then mix all the ingredients together with their hands. Kids seem to love that part, and by having fun with food and engaging your child’s imagination, you might see better results when it comes to eating healthy. Wouldn’t you rather eat something that you had a hand in creating? Or something that’s special and unique, like ‘ants on a log’ instead of just plain, boring celery?
While being a good role model, educating your kid about healthy food choices, and finding fun and creative ways to get your them excited to eat veggies are all excellent options to try, sometimes you just don’t have the time or the energy. That’s when you need to come up with a quick solution for the good of your family and yourself.
If you’re having trouble, Moms.com has a bunch of suggestions for getting vegetables into your child’s diet without them knowing or realizing. You can add spinach or kale into a smoothie, they say, and come up with a funny or cute nickname for it, instead of highlighting that it’s green because of the veggies. You can also bake with zucchini and carrots as a base for muffins and cakes, then add blueberries, dark chocolate chips or other favorite ingredients to mask the taste. Moms.com also recommends making pancakes or waffles with butternut squash by adding it to the batter, as well as substituting wheat pasta with spaghetti squash or cutting up cucumbers and making them look like noodles.
Honesty is always the best policy.
It’s important to note that parents shouldn’t try to deceive their kids into believing that they aren’t eating vegetables or that they don’t need to, according to Moms.com. In order to create solid, nutritious eating habits for your child in the long run, Parents.com believes that it’s important that they learn to like vegetables and enjoy them, even if it takes some time. Parents.com points out that if your kid discovers that you’re sneaking veggies into their food, they could feel duped and become upset. That might lead to your child not trusting you with their food, which is the last thing you want.
The best way to get your child to enjoy eating healthy is to be a good role model and eat healthy yourself. They’re always watching you, the same way you’re always watching them.