Since October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, it's a good time to address a problem that has plagued parents for decades — at least in our part of the world. How can we get our kids to eat more vegetables?
After nearly 30 years of "experimenting," I can tell you what has worked best with my twelve children. They are all huge salad lovers, and the majority of them are fond of things like beets and beans and Brussels sprouts, as well.
Here are my top five tips for raising kids who like to eat what's good for them:
1. EAT A LOT OF VEGGIES YOURSELF
Little ones are automatically more interested in what's on your plate than what is on their own. Lead by example. Pile your own plate high with lots of bright, fresh veggies, and when your child requests a bite, be happy to share.
2. CLEAN OUT THE PANTRY
You'll have a hard time teaching your children to prefer healthful, nutritious foods if you stock your pantry with calorie-dense snacks that are full of sugar, salt and fat. Food manufacturers purposefully formulate their products to make them more addictive. Don't bring them home, and you won't have to compete.
Instead, fill your pantry and fridge with fresh, easy-to-grab fruit and veggies, such as apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, celery sticks and sugar-snap peas.
3. LET YOUR KIDS HELP IN THE KITCHEN
Even very young children can rinse produce and help prepare raw dishes. Let them pluck grapes off the stem and add blueberries or blackberries to a fruit salad, or let them tear up lettuce and add cherry tomatoes to a garden salad. Older children can be given a paring knife and a cutting board and tasked with chopping or slicing fruits and vegetables under your supervision. Involving them in the prep work gets them more excited about eating the finished product.
4. TAKE UP GARDENING
Growing food at home takes involvement and ownership to a whole new level. Even if you don't have space for a full-size garden, a few potted herbs can give children the wonderful thrill of eating something they grew themselves.
5. PAY ATTENTION TO PRESENTATION
Make the food you serve look as appetizing as possible. Fruits and veggies are naturally bright and beautiful. Don't prepare them in such a way that all the color gets cooked out.
When serving raw veggies to young children, give them some hummus or ranch dressing to dip them in or arrange them on the plate to make a scene. Pinterest is full of fun food ideas for dressing up vegetables.
If all else fails, try hiding the veggies in other foods. Add zucchini to muffins or squash and carrots to spaghetti sauce. Get creative and enjoy the better health that comes with increasing your intake of these vitamin rich, superfoods!
Jennifer Flanders loves eating a plant-rich diet, and her children seem to share that preference. The real challenge has been getting her husband to eat more veggies. To read how that project is going, visit www.flandersfamily.info .