How do you get your kids to eat the same foods you eat?
I hear this question almost every week.
First, don’t assume that it came easy for our family. My kids will devour some veggies, but it took time, patience and a lot of frustrating meal times. Just like many of you, I had moments where I wanted to cry, throw my kids plates in the trash, and send them to bed with ZERO food.
Truth is, it’s not always easy. I had to learn through trial and error how my kids enjoy foods.
food. He will eat anything “chip” textured. My daughter is the exact opposite, she will eat anything I put in front of her. I fix her plate like I would fix my plate.
It’s tough having one child who will ask for my salad over the “kid food”, compared to my son who made me work hard to cultivate his love for vegetables.
Here are my top 10 tips that I give to parents whose babies are on the Anti- Veggie bandwagon!
1. Cook veggies in a variety of ways and find out what veggies they will eat and how they will eat them. Have those veggies available often. Who cares if the eat sweet potato fries every day! (That was seriously my life with a certain 2-year-old boy.)
2. Start with a small portion. 1 Cucumber sliced into 4 pieces looks way more manageable than 4 big slices. 4 Sweet potato slices laid out neatly, look more manageable than a huge mound of potatoes.
3. Bribe them, Don’t judge! If they really will not eat any veggies, offer them a treat if they eat all the veggies on their plate (remember to give them a manageable amount). In our house, this isn’t always a food treat. This can be staying up a little later and reading books or playing a game with daddy after dinner. Get creative and pay attention to things your kids enjoy.
4. Set a timer and tell them that they need to finish their veggies in an allotted time or they don’t get their treat. (Racing the clock can be a really fun game.)
5. No seconds of things they like until they eat some veggies.
6. Offer them dip! We use things like applesauce, honey, guacamole, honey mustard, and ketchup. (Give them a choice and tell them they are kid chefs. It’s gross to see what they pick, but super adorable seeing them create and devour their own inventions.)
7. This is probably the hardest tips for the adults reading this. EAT YOUR VEGGIES! That’s right grown-ups, you can’t expect your kids to eat vegetables if you refuse to eat them. (You have no idea how many parents struggle with this. Try all these rules for yourself or just make veggies you like more often.)
8. Praise them for their efforts. If they refused to eat the veggie yesterday, but they ate 1 bite today, clap for them and tell them you are so proud. Do a dance, pick them up and hug them, act absolutely silly and insane. They will appreciate the effort and might eat more to make you act silly again.
9. Explain to them why vegetables are important. I tell my son that broccoli gives him muscles. You don’t have to have a deep health lesson unless that’s your thing. You can keep it as simple as, “Vegetables are so important to our growing bodies and we need to have some every day to be healthy, smart and strong”
10. Ask them what vegetable they want to eat. Giving them a choice allows them to feel valued and important. You’ll learn more about the vegetables your kids like and you can say, hey you picked these so you need to eat them.
10.1. Take your kids to the grocery store and let them see all of the vegetables available. Let them pick something to try from the store.
11. #playwithyourfood If you look at my instagram or FB posts, you’ll see that I am not opposed to playing with food. I make my kids food into fun creatures and I let them blow bubbles in their smoothies. Whatever works right?
12. Put it in random things that your kids do love. Smoothies are an awesome option! Brownies, scrambled eggs and anything you can easily hide it in.
12.1 Buy foods that have vegetables in them . Some of your favorites Kale chips, Root Vegetable chips, Bars with vegetables, vegetable and fruit squeeze pouches. (WARNING: Be sure you are feeding them healthy options, not sugar loaded chemical vegetable junk food. I linked to some of our favorite options.)
13. Don’t turn blue yelling at your kids to eat their veggies. Put the veggie on the plate, tell them you want them to at least try it. Give them the offer of a treat and then set the timer. If they eat an amount you are proud of, give them the treat and praise them. If they don’t eat any, tell them they can try again tomorrow. Give them love and leave the frustration at the dinner table.
Hope this helps those stressful mealtime moments. You are NOT alone in this struggle. There is nothing more irritating than trying to force your kids to eat. We’ve got to be modeling how and be consistently encouraging.
Now, go cook some veggies!