How to get your kids to eat more vegetables

How to get your kids to eat more vegetables

In this first episode of the ‘Good You Can Do‘ podcast, my wife, Annah and I share tips and strategies that we use to encourage our kids to eat and enjoy vegetables at every meal (including breakfast).

Follow the podcast on SpotifyGoogleApple, or Stitcher.

Show notes:

Check out the healthy chocolate cake / muffin recipe mentioned by Annah:

https://thenaturalnurturer.com/healthy-chocolate-muffins-with-veggies/

And the book ‘V is for Vegan’:

https://www.bookdepository.com/V-Is-For-Vegan-Ruby-Roth/9781583946497

Full transcript:

Andy:
We’ve been through a long journey over the last few years of trying to live a more sustainable life. A life that’s better for the planet and we’ve made a number of life changes which have involved a lot of learning along the way. And we’re really keen to share some of that knowledge that we’ve gained so that we can maybe speed up the learning curve for other people and save people from some of the slow kind of adjustments that we made. I guess if we can give you a little bit of knowledge that will make your transition easier, then that’s going to be a good thing.

Andy:
Okay so today we’re going to talk to you about quick-fire ideas to help you encourage your kids to eat more vegetables. We have a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl in our house and something that we really work hard at is encouraging them to try and experiment with different veggies. So we’re going to share just some of the ideas. I will read them off pretty quickly because you’re probably pretty time poor if you’re listening to this, if you’re a busy parent. So let’s get right to it. Starting at the beginning of the day, my favorite is that we find porridge is a really good breakfast option.

Andy:
We don’t do it every day but most days we’ll start the day with a really quick microwave porridge. One cup of oats, two cups of water, or you can do a mix of coconut milk and water or whatever you like. We will grate a carrot into that, probably about half a carrot into the whole bowl of porridge. Grate it up with the really small part of the grater. We’ll also put in whatever fruit we’ve got, usually blueberries but you could do apples or just whatever’s in the fridge or in the fruit bowl.

Annah:
Sultana’s are a good one.

Andy:
Sultana’s a good option if you’ve only got nothing, if you don’t have anything fresh. Maybe some cinnamon and you can put whatever else you like in it. It’s a really good time to chuck in things like chia seeds or LSA and-

Annah:
Hemp hearts.

Andy:
… hemp hearts if you’ve got them. I like to mix in a bit of peanut butter or almond butter. The kids aren’t so keen on it when I do that but you could try that out too. And if you’re struggling with getting them to eat it, you could add a small amount of maple syrup just to give it a bit of sweetness.

Annah:
Some canned apple puree works very well too if you want to avoid processed sugars. I think it’s a very, I mean, modern day idea that no vegetables should be involved in breakfast. We were brought up sort of eating a bowl of coco pops or sweet cereal with milk but breakfast is the perfect opportunity to add a vegetable. There’s no reason why you can’t put it in there. So carrot is so sweet. I mean, it should be basically a fruit when you eat it and think about it. So the kids just love it in their porridge.

Annah:
We are massive fans of the courgette and carrot or spinach or something. Pancakes. Pancakes are real simple to make and kids love them. So just literally we just use oats, ripe bananas and some coconut milk and blitz it together but you can add anything to that. So blueberries, spinach, courgette’s a great one. Courgette doesn’t have a very strong flavor so you can mask it. And I just cook these a little bit before I blitz them in with the oats and then fry them on a fry pan and they’re amazing. And they’re great snacks from the lunch box or breakfast on the go.

Andy:
And they last a couple of days.

Annah:
Yeah, they do.

Andy:
[crosstalk 00:03:47] As well in the fridge. So courgette and carrots are two really easy ones to blend in as we say into anything. So experiment with both of those. Whatever’s cheap. Whatever’s going, what have you got next?

Annah:
I follow a blog, which is really helpful that I would yell from the rooftop to any parent that’s called the natural nurturer and she likes to hide veggies and things and it’s not hidden, you’re not trying to tell your child that it’s not in there. You can tell them that it’s there but you wouldn’t notice that these things are there. So our son’s birthday cake was actually made with spinach and carrot and it was a double layer chocolate cake and it was amazing. And also just any sort of lentil meatball or cookies or anything like that. You’d be surprised what you can actually put some veggies in especially spinach. Spinach makes things green which can be really fun for kids. Green muffins, green pancakes, green cookies. Tell them it’s like the Hulk if you want to. It’s just trying to look at your traditional food items that you would make for children anyway and think, actually, why does it have to not have something, an added benefit in that?

Andy:
So moving through the day, the next step that we feel is a really important part of this process is to, if you can, grow some of your own vegetables. Even if it’s just a small potted tomato plant and get your kids involved in that process. So whether it’s watering them each day or putting the seeds into the pot in the first place and just making that a habit and it’s so fun once you get these plants growing and your kids can pick a tomato off the plant and eat it. And even if they don’t like it, it’s just they’ve seen that process. They’ve been part of that the whole way and it’s just that continued exposure.

Annah:
Yeah. And it’s amazing that Connor will eat a tomato picked off the plant but he won’t eat one if I’ve served him one on his plate. So if he’s outside and he’s eating it, it’s sort of, pressure-free eating and they’re just not as scared of it. Sugar snap peas, or snow peas are also a really good option. Anything that you can eat straight off the vine and you can, if you need to wash them, that’s cool. That also becomes part of the process. Any vegetable that can just be taken straight out of the garden and shoved in your mouth is a really cool one to start with to just get kids excited about it.

Andy:
Something that on that note that I’ve had to learn is just about this continued exposure idea. You can’t ask them, do you want to try this once? And if they say, no, just feel like that’s that. With kids, you just have to keep, hey, do you want to pick a tomato off the plant? No. Okay. Next day, hey, do you want to pick a tomato off the plant? Yeah, absolutely. I do. So many times their minds can change quite quickly so if you serve a vegetable to your child and they don’t like it at first, don’t take it as being gospel, that that’s always going to be the case. I think it’s very quick, we’re often very quick to label things and say, oh, my child, doesn’t like tomatoes, or my child doesn’t like this but that could change in a week. Just got to give it another go.

Annah:
Yeah. And different seasonings and things. I’ve found one day our son will eat 14 mushrooms if he could. And then the next day you cook them exactly the same way and he doesn’t even want to [inaudible 00:07:19] them. Maybe they’ve been cooked by a different person or maybe it’s just not a mushroom day for him and that’s fine, we all have days where we don’t feel like a certain food and they’re just like us. So it is, it’s a constant exposure. It’s constantly putting that little broccoli stem on their plate and talking about it being a little tree rather than just never serving it to them because if they never get exposed to it, they’re never going to change their mind basically.

Andy:
And as you move forward into dinner, it’s more common that you’ll have little small pieces of veggies that are very obviously veggies on their plate. And that’s where this idea of giving things names and playing games with them really helps.

Annah:
A winner in our house is the traffic light game. If you can find three veggies, red, orange, and green. Honestly, last night, I got our son to eat an entire plate full of vegetables by saying ready, set, and then naming a color. And he would go for it because he was so excited that it was like a traffic light. Find whatever your kid is interested in. In our example, it’s definitely, he’s all about vehicles. So find your kid’s passion and then name the food after them, put it in that shape, add little utensils to make it more fun. Silicone muffin trays are really great. You can add little portions. Kids really love things in separate sections rather than all lumped together. We would eat a salad but deconstruct that salad into separate items and you actually might find that your kids eat the individual items when they haven’t even been touched by something else.

Annah:
And so tiny little mini forks or anything with toys or colors or fun games that you can play. We’ve even found timers work quite well sometimes. You can put them on the table and just flip a timer over and make it into some sort of race as to who’s going to eat their broccoli the fastest. And all of it works and goes down to exposure even if they spit it out, they’ve put it in their mouth, they’ve given it a try. The next time they might eat it without even really thinking twice about it.

Andy:
Couple of other ones that have worked well for us is at dinner time, we’re fortunate enough to be able to eat together and so I’ll often suggest to kind of, hey, look, let’s all have a bit of broccoli at the same time. So Annah and myself, Connor, we’ll all get a bit of broccoli on our fork and all simultaneously eat it. And he seems to really enjoy that synchronicity.

Annah:
Doing it together.

Andy:
Doing it together. The other one is we say, when you eat broccoli, it makes your eyes sparkle. So once we eat the bit of broccoli, we play this game where our eyes sparkle and we make funny little noises and we tell him that his eyes are sparkling. The other one that Annah’s really good at is the can you hear a crunch game. So basically if it’s a crunchy type of vegetable, then we’ll ask Connor to eat it and we’ll say, we’ll go in the next room and we’ll listen out and see if we can hear the crunch of you eating it. And we play this game to see how far away we can hear the crunch just to make it fun.

Annah:
More interesting. Some books have been really good too. So it’s when you’re exposing them to new foods. If they’ve read about a food in a book, then they might be a little bit more open to giving it a try. We’ve found a book called V Is for Vegan really good because it’s alphabetical and it goes through all these sorts of different sort of grains and vegetables and things like that, that might be a little bit more unique and has just made it so that you can go get the book and you can find in the book what’s on your plate and make it so that you can see in the cartoon form, what it is that you’re eating.

Andy:
It helps them feel that it’s normal to eat lentils and kidney beans and things like that. So it’s called a V Is for Vegan: The ABC’s of Being Kind written by Ruby Roth. So definitely with checking out. So that I think covers our list. Perfect. So make it fun. Keep trying if they don’t like it at first, just keep exposing them to it, keep it in a separate part of the plate so they can always see it there. Try and make it normal, try and eating it with them and encourage them to give it a go. Congratulate them even if they just put it in their mouth and spit it out straight away at least they gave it a go.

Andy:
And if all else fails, try just slipping it into your baking. Any good cake or muffin can probably have some spinach smuggled into it somehow. And porridge is a really nice, simple way to start your day off. And there’s something about starting your day off having got some veggies into your kid that just kind of sets you up really well. So if dinner ends up being hot chips and rice then you can at least feel good knowing that there’s been some vegetable intake.

Annah:
It’s a good start.

Andy:
Absolutely. Thanks for listening. Hope that helps and wish you guys the very best of luck with getting lots of vegetables into your family.

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