Does your kid have super sensory abilities when it comes to finding bits of broccoli in their cheesy lasagna? Sometimes, even the stealthiest parent can falter when it comes to sneaking in healthy food in their kid’s meal. If you’re pulling your hair trying to find a way to get your child to eat vegetables, these tips could help you out.
1. Don’t Make Them Separate Meals
As soon as your kids can start eating adult food, try as much as possible to make them eat the same food everyone else is eating. Not only will these be less exhausting for you, but it will also help your kids eat better. Children tend to copy adults around them, so when they see everyone else eating the food without a fuss, they’re more likely to follow suit.
2. Get Them Involved
Having your kids help out in the kitchen is a great way to make food more fun for them. Giving them responsibilities however small, helps them feel accomplished. If your son hates beans with a vengeance, you could have him help with washing and serving them. When he feels he had some role to play in their making, he will be more likely to eat them. If you have the space, you could also consider growing a vegetable garden with them. When they’re fully involved in taking care of the vegetables, they will be more excited to eat them.
3. Don’t Bribe Them
Have you fallen into the habit of telling your kids that they can’t play with their toys unless they finish their greens? While this seems like an effective short-term technique, it could create a negative association with those vegetables in your child’s mind. They will start thinking of vegetables as a punishment and will be even less likely to eat them in the future. Instead, you could make them eat one bite of vegetables after every bite of chicken and make sure they’re doing it. Soon they should start internalizing it and doing it themselves.
4. Make It A Game
Kids have a very active imagination and you can use this to your advantage when you’re trying to get them to eat something they don’t like. You could make up stories about why he needs to eat vegetables, you could give the carrots on his plate a backstory, you could even make eating them a game for which he gets rewarded. You know your child’s interests the best, so use your creativity to make up an adventure centered around vegetables.
5. Stay Persistent
One too many drawn-out dinners might leave you feeling dejected and vowing to never go through this again. But studies show that kids need to taste a particular food item 8-10 times at least before they can start accepting it. Make your kid at least a bite of whatever food they don’t like and over time, they should become more open to eating it.
6. Use Positive Reinforcement
Scolding your child for not eating properly is stressful on both them and you. Unlike what you might have believed, it actually doesn’t help your kids at all. Making every meal a fight can cause your kids to dread mealtime and become fussy eaters. Instead, stick to the one-bite rule of forcing them to finish everything on their plate. Instead of getting angry with them, you could try using positive reinforcement to encourage them. Verbally praising your child for eating a whole mouthful of food they don’t like is more likely to encourage them to eat more in the future.
7. Know What They Want
Your go-to argument for telling your kids why they need to eat their vegetables is probably “because I said so.” That phrase didn’t work on you when your parents used it and it won’t work on your kids either. Telling them vegetables are healthy also won’t get you very far because kids don’t care about health. But your kids do want to grow taller or be able to run faster or grow longer hair. Explaining to them that vegetables help them do all these things will help a kid understand that they need to eat them.
8. Make Mealtime Colorful
Kids love everything colorful. The more colorful something is, the more attracted they are to it. The most obvious way to make their meals colorful is to use a lot of brightly colored vegetables and arrange them creatively on their plates. You could also buy them colorful dinner sets to get them excited about eating on their pretty new plate with their brightly colored fork.
9. Disguise Foods
If your kid refuses to touch milk, maybe a mango smoothie will convince him to down a glass. Hiding foods they don’t like in more appetizing disguises can trick your kid into eating them. Pizzas and pastas are great vehicles to sneak in some nutrition. Kids usually love anything with cheese and ketchup on it, so think of new ways you could use flavors they already love to make certain foods more palatable to them.
10. Use Lies Liberally
We understand, lying to your kids is not nice. But when it’s for the greater good, could it really be so bad? Your kid probably has a couple of role models they hero worship. You could try telling them that their favorite actor loves peas or their favorite footballer ate a lot of spinach to become so good. You lie to your kids about Santa and the Tooth Fairy anyway. What’s a little harmless white lie now and then if it gets them to eat better?