How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables and Healthy Foods

By Dr. Anupama Gupta in Paediatrics (Ped)

Sep 09 , 2022 | 3 min read

Are children picky eaters? Do they all really hate vegetables? This has been a challenge parents have been occupied with for years, to little avail. Or so we think.

Why are kids so averse to eating veggies? Studies show this may be an evolutionary and biological tactic. Early humans had to forage for food, and bitter foods were considered toxic, so they stayed away from them. Children are, similarly, in an exploratory phase which can cause them to run away from vegetables.

From a biological standpoint, children have more tastebuds than adults and are more sensitive to flavours, which says a little about why they are sceptical about vegetables. Additionally, sweet foods provide glucose, an instant energy source, which explains why children prefer sweeter foods over vegetables.

It is necessary to create healthy food habits from a young age so that children grow and develop into adults with healthy eating habits. Here are some things you can do to feed your children vegetables:

  1. Do not associate food with rewards or punishments. It can alter how your child perceives food and may even change their relationship with food. Telling children they can eat desserts if they finish their vegetables can make them associate unwanted feelings and behaviours toward vegetables.

  2. Start them young. Feed your child mashed, seasoned vegetables, so they get familiar with flavours early on.

  3. Eat those vegetables with them. Children mimic their parents, and if they see their parents avoiding vegetables, they want to do the same. Break this pattern by sharing plates of veggies.

  4. Engage your child when food is involved. Take them out for grocery shopping and let them pick out vegetables that appeal to them. Buying colourful vegetables can boost their interest and encourage them to eat those vegetables. Get your children to help you while you prepare meals, so they see and understand what goes into making a meal.

  5. Prepare vegetables with simple ingredients that enhance their features rather than masking them. Mixing and matching with legumes, meat, and other kinds of protein provides a nutritious, wholesome meal that meets their dietary requirements.

  6. Switch up your methods of preparing vegetables. Alternate between roasting, grilling, sautéing and steaming vegetables so that children can tell the best way they would enjoy their vegetables. Sautéing or stir-frying broccoli is much more delicious and flavorful than plain, steamed broccoli.

  7. Using colourful, bright, differently shaped serving plates, cookie cutters, and creatively plating food can create a sense of excitement and intrigue during mealtime.

  8. Put vegetables whenever you have the opportunity. Add them to soups, in smoothies, blend them into a thick pasta sauce or gravy, or prepare desserts with them. However, do not make it a habit because children should know that vegetables are an integral part of any meal and must learn to enjoy them as they are.

  9. Try using fresh produce rather than canned, bottled or pre-packaged food items. Processed products are high in salt and have low nutritional value.

  10. Prepare vegetables with flavours your child is familiar with and enjoys. They will look forward to eating those meals and will be more receptive to eating other vegetables prepared in that style.

  11. Completely cutting out snacks and less healthy food can be jarring. Instead, making healthier alternatives using vegetables or trying out plant-based versions of those foods can be helpful rather than eliminating them.

  12. Make snacking on vegetables a practice. Using different dips and sauces can be more appealing than eating raw or steamed vegetables.

  13. It is necessary to remember that children will not like things in one go. Patience is essential, and allowing your child to eat tiny portions is better than overwhelming them with large portions they must finish. Try different recipes to see which ones your child responds to and enjoys.

  14. Eating while watching something on a phone, laptop, tv or tablet can take away concentration from food and does not allow children to focus on what is on their plate. This can lead to overeating, making them ignore foods that are good for them and not recognise the foods they enjoy.

  15. Eating at the dining table rather than on the bed aids with posture, lets the child be aware of their hunger level and aids in digestion. Sitting at a table encourages children to notice other family members or adults eating their vegetables and improves their social skills.

Small steps like this can jumpstart healthy eating habits, resulting in healthier individuals who genuinely enjoy the range of food available. Food does not have to be a punishment, and nutritious meals do not have to be boring. Many resources are available to us in a technology-driven era, and we must make use of them to make conscious steps to eat better and feel better.

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