A. It's hard work! But it pays to be persistent. Over the years, I've worked out a number of techniques to help parents and used them on our kids when they were younger (and we had one of the world's fussiest eaters in our daughter!).
Try any of these and see if they work to encourage your child to eat their vegetables:
- Start when they're babies. Introduce mashed pumpkin, carrots, zucchini and avocado early as some of their weaning foods.
- Encourage children to help with preparation e.g. shredding lettuce, grating carrot, arranging the vegetables on a plate, mixing a salad.
- Try not to bribe young children e.g. "If you want some ice cream, you have to eat broccoli". Children will swallow an unappetising food to get the reward, but that doesn't make them like it. Often it only makes them hate it more.
- If kids refuse cooked vegetables, offer them raw as celery sticks, capsicum strips, cherry tomatoes, whole button mushroom, carrot (grated or steamed before age 3), snow peas, beans, cucumber or steamed asparagus.
- Keep offering vegetables even if kids reject them at first. They need to see them at least five times before they look "familiar". Ask your child to try one mouthful.
- Even if they won't taste it, keep putting a couple of vegies on their dinner plate. Your aim is to get them to learn that a balanced meal contains some colourful veges - not simply meat and potato.
- Give them a funny name. US research has shown that children eat twice as many carrots when they are served with a cool name like "X-ray Vision Carrots", instead of being called just "carrots". Fun names to get you started include:
• Broccoli: Little trees, Gregory Green, Dinosaur trees
• Green beans: Mister Bean, Shrek food, Warrior sticks, Greenie Beanies
• Others: Power pears, Super Duper Spinach, Captain Cauliflower, Tomatees, Punkins, Gollyflower and Pea-Pea
If all else fails, grate carrot or zucchini into meatloaf or spaghetti sauce and "hide" diced vegetables in casseroles.
Wansink, Brian, Just, David R, Payne, Collin R & Klinger, Matthew. (2012). Attractive Names Sustain Increased Vegetable Intake in Schools. Preventive Medicine, 55(4): 330-332