How do I get my child to eat vegetables?

If you follow my social media you will already know that I love food…I mean I LOVE all things colourful and plant based.

My love of food has always been there but my love of healthy food is something that really developed when I had my son. Seeing what was going into him made me really think about how it will effect him such as growth and development. I’m very lucky in the fact that he isn’t a fussy eater in fact he eats everything but that may in part be down to us introducing him to lots of different flavours and textures from a young age.

You see children aren’t born with bland taste buds, in fact it’s our job to develop children’s taste buds and that means introducing them to many different flavours and textures at a young age.

More often than not, I see so many parents weaning their children with bland banana, toast, Plain porridge, broccoli and carrots instead of giving them a variety of flavours that will help them to accept sharp, bitter, tangy, and hot flavours later on.

But how can we achieve this?

Of course most children aren’t going to accept a food straight away…in fact they may even eat it one week and decide the next that they don’t like it…it’s a child’s Perogative.

But this doesn’t mean that as soon as they reject a food, that goes onto a list that means you will never put that food on their plate again.

I understand for an easy life, it’s easier to just give children the food you know they will eat, even if that is just fish fingers, chips and peas. But how will that benefit them?

Take a salad for example! When my son was about 1 1/2 years old, Everyday I put a salad on my sons plate with greens, vegetables and included a fruit that I knew my son would like Which at the time was grapes. So at first he only ate the grapes which is fine, but I kept persevering and eventually he tried the other greens and vegetables that went with it and even now he will quite happily munch on a salad.
even if a child rejects food, just add it to the plate, put it into sauces etc, make sure that you don’t make a deal of it and move on and try another time.

Texture is always a common problem when I see children in my clinic, but like most children, mashed up food was the main bases of meals as a baby, what texture was the child exposed to and what flavours. By allowing children to explore different foods with different textures it helps to build up an understanding.

I understand convenience is important for many parents and the idea of these prepackaged foods that provide an array of vegetables in a pouch is appealing but this again is restricting a child’s food development. Blending all vegetables and fruit together doesn’t give a child an understanding of their different flavours, or their textures. Allowing a child to discover these through eating them individually will allow them to explore more flavours

Helping out in the kitchen .

Obviously getting a very young child to help with preparation isn’t possible but starting them as young as possible with food preparation, even if it just means them adding food to a plate with a spoon can really help a child to connect with the food they are about to eat. Giving them the responsibility helps theM to feel an achievement and can help them to accept more foods.

Since my son was young we have always visited a pick your own where he has help to pick lots of vegetables and fruit which we then cook and eat at home…okay so this isn’t always possible but even popping to the supermarket with your child and getting them to help pick the vegetables and fruit can help them to try new foods.

I used to often say that we “must eat the rainbow” at each meal time, which my son loved. So he would be happy to fill his plate with as many colours as possible and more often than not, results in children eating the colourful vegetables and fruit.

Try a rainbow challenge with your children…see how many different vegetables and fruit they can eat each week…rewards are always well received in our house so making this enjoyable as well as an option for them to earn something is a bonus.

Food should be enjoyable so if they don’t eat the courgette that you added to their plate to try…don’t fret! Try again another time or try it in another dish.

For very fussy eaters, I do suggest hiding vegetables in food such as a simple tomato sauce that you can add in peppers, courgettes, aubergine and even beans such as butter beans. Add veggies to your Smoothie such as cauliflower, courgette, carrot, spinach, kale, broccoli and even beetroot which all are either neutral in taste or provide a delicious sweetness. Grate veggies into pancakes and porridge…it really is about being crafty…sorry I mean clever haha.

The thing with children is, it’s black and white with them. while running school nutrition workshops, I find that children really respond well when they understand what food does to then and how it helps each area of the body, whether that’s vegetables and fruit or sweets and sugar. It all comes down to Giving them the tools they need to understand how food effects us. We all know that sugar isn’t good for us, yet I see over again parents resorting to refined sugar laden breakfasts and snacks to try and keep their children fed and happy….in the long run it’s only going to cause issues.

By showing children that certain foods help certain areas of the body Can help them to explore new foods. We all know the saying “carrots help you see in the dark!” Well that’s not just a ploy that parents use to make their children eat veggies but actually there is some truth in it. You see so many different coloured vegetables and fruit can support different areas of the body…some support brain health by improving concentration, stabilise moods and improve mental health, some support bone and muscle growth, some can help optimise endurance, improve sleep patterns and help support brain health.
Many studies have shown that including whole unprocessed Natural foods can improve symptoms of conditions such as ADHD, autism and behavioural issues.

I often hear parents say well my child eats lots and lots of fruit and yes fruit does contain amazing nutrients and antioxidants but they also contain sugar so if that is all your child is eating on top of the other processed foods and limited vegetables, it’s increasing the sugar burden on the liver. You should be aiming at 8 a day with the majority being vegetables and like I said, if it means hiding them, so be it. But with the tips above it can really help to enforce a new relationship with vegetables and food and hopefully get more kids trying new foods.

I always stress that it’s important to Eliminate processed foods, reducing sugar intake and include whole grains, natural fruit and vegetables (8 a day with the majority being vegetables) include good sources of protein such as fish, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, Include healthy fats from nuts and seeds, avocado, olives and oily fish and all this can support your child’s overall health and well-being.