by Lisa Samuel, Co-op News contributor
Lisa Samuel, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist
Dear Nutritionist: I have a hard time getting my son to eat vegetables! Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Member: It’s almost every parent’s dilemma: How do I get my child to eat vegetables? Here are a few tips for the picky children in your life. And maybe a few picky husbands or wives, too!
• Invite your child into the kitchen to help make dinner. Kids are more likely to eat what they cook. Kids love projects, and cooking their own dinner gives them a sense of accomplishment and ownership. Give them age-appropriate tasks like washing vegetables, measuring ingredients, dumping, or stirring.
• Give foods fun names. A recent study shows kids eat twice as many vegetables when the veggies were labeled with cool, fun names, like X-ray Vision Carrots and Tiny Tasty Tree Tops. So come up with fun names for foods (or let your kids invent names) and you’ll watch those veggies disappear.
• Give your kids choices. Like all of us, kids want to have control. Let them choose between healthy options, and they’ll feel empowered. For example, when you’re making pizza, set out bowls of different types of vegetable toppings, and let your child build his own pizza. You may be surprised when he chooses spinach.
• Add vegetables to recipes. While I’m not a huge fan of sneaking vegetables into meals, it can take time for kids to develop a taste for them. Studies suggest kids may have to taste a food 15 to 20 times before they start to like it. So, keep serving that side of broccoli and encouraging your child to at least taste it. Eventually, her taste buds will start to accept it—and even like it! In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with sneaking a little more vegetables into her favorite foods, to make sure she’s getting all the nutrition she needs. For example, shred carrots or zucchini and add to hamburgers or meatballs, add shredded or pureed veggies to pasta sauce, or puree cauliflower and add it to mac n’ cheese. You can even blend fresh spinach into a fruit smoothie (blueberries are great for disguising the green color). This works for picky adults, too.
• Eat together as a family. The research is clear—kids who eat dinner with their parents are healthier, happier, and less likely to get into trouble as a teen. And kids model what their parents do, so if you’re putting more vegetables on your plate, eventually they will, too. Don’t pressure your child to eat—just set a good example. There are 1,440 minutes in a day—make at least 30 of those minutes a dinner with your kids.