Have you ever wondered how to make your child eat greens? I know I did! And many times, at that! Instead of giving up and buying them pizza, be firm and place vegetables on the table as often as you can, just in front of them!
Every single week I plan on serving more vegetables and fewer sweets to my daughter. I also fail at that task every single week. On the one hand, she’s very picky with greens. On the other, I’m tired of cooking and throwing out the food. So, I usually end up cooking dishes I know she eats, mostly mashed potatoes, omelet, spaghetti, chicken fingers, polenta, shakshuka or sandwiches. Sometimes I pair one of these foods with a small salad, made of cherry tomatoes and cucumber. That’s all she tolerates as raw vegetables.
What am I doing wrong? I guess almost everything since the best way to get children to eat food they do not like is simply to give them repeated exposure to it. At least that’s what a study published in the science journal Food Quality and Preference says.
Another mistake? Offering the children rewards or treats in return for finishing their vegetables. In tests, children repeatedly offered vegetables were more likely to eventually eat them as opposed to those given a reward for eating.
How to make your child eat greens
It’s not an easy task to turn your veggie hater into a veggie lover. You should be patient and stable in your decision. In fact, we're born preferring sweet tastes and we learned, in time, to like everything else. It’s the same with our children.
1. Mash up the veggies
If you want to make your child eat greens, pimp up mashed potatoes with broccoli, spinach, or sweet peas. Add the greens gradually, and your kid will still have the delicious side dishes they're used to. Only with a bit more vitamins.
2. Make drinks
Do you usually make fruit smoothies for your child? Hide some spinach or lettuce in your children's drinks, and they're never going to find out! Unless you add too many greens and change the taste they're used to. But be patient, in time they're going to get used to the new taste as well.
3. Saucy greens
If your little one likes macaroni and cheese, try to stir some veggies into the sauce. Mashing broccoli or cauliflower into cheese sauces adds incredible texture and flavor. You can also add greens to tomato sauces to take them to a whole new level.
4. Pimp up pasta
My daughter likes spaghetti with a simple sauce made of tomatoes, basil, some extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. But sometimes I blend some cooked onion, celery, carrot, and even eggplant into the mix. Just small quantities, so the dominant flavor being of tomatoes. But everyone’s got a favorite pasta dish. Adding some veggies into the pasta sauce is a quick and super-simple way to add greens to your kid's meals.
You can make chicken soup by boiling fresh vegetables into the stock. That way you can add parsnip, turnip, carrots, cauliflower, onion, and celery to the dish. If your kid doesn’t like to see diced veggies in their bowl, strain the liquid. At least some nutrients remain into the stock.
You can also boil some vegetables, then blend them into a cream and serve the soup with croutons. This works for my daughter, which likes the combo made with potatoes, onion, carrot, zucchini, and bell peppers. I also add some heavy cream and butter.
6. With a dip
Kids are more likely to eat their veggies if you serve them with a dip. How about you try a homemade ranch dip? Just mix some garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, kosher salt, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh chives into a cup of plain Greek yogurt. Another suggestion is to stir some fresh parsley, smoked paprika powder, lemon zest, salt, pepper, dried diced onion into a bowl of Greek yogurt. You can also make a tzatziki dip or a cheese sauce.
Serve your kid favorite dip with veggie sticks (celery, carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper), steamed broccoli and cauliflower, or fresh cherry tomatoes.
7. Eat healthy yourself!
To be a positive role model you have to eat healthy yourself! You can’t expect your child to ask for fresh bell peppers if you eat chicken strips in front of them! You should always have avocado and fresh vegetables on the table. Just crunch some, including as a snack, and they’ll follow your lead!
8. Don’t give up!
Don’t be like me! Do not get tired of trying and don’t give up! Your child deserves to eat healthily and you are the one responsible for teaching them how to live wisely. It may take 10 or more moments of exposure to a food before your children feel comfortable trying it and accepting it. Just keep offering them vegetables at different meals and in different ways without pressuring your kid to taste it or like it. Who knows, maybe someday this will work to make your child eat greens!
That's it! I'm going home to make two dips!