My Kids Like Vegetables.
Why Don't Yours?
Typically, kids don't like vegetables. Why is that? I can't really answer that, since I dont know, I've always eaten them...mainly because I had no other choice...but I did like them. I think its a combination of things, the parents don't eat and relish as many vegetables as they should, things aren't cooked in a very tasty way, and the kids are "forced" to eat what is on their plates.
That's about how I grew up, but if we tried to be picky, there were serious consequences. I try to take a different approach on things. Kids don't want to be "made" to do anything. You have to convince them they "want" to do it.
Lets say you have non-veggie kids. "Veggies are gross! We want burgers and fries!" The closest they'll come to eating a vegetable is french fries, mashed potatos, or corn on the cob...maybe. When actually, corn and potatoes aren't true vegetables at all, but more of a starch. What kinds of vegetables do you serve them? Are they prepared from fresh, or canned? Do YOU enjoy eating them, or just kind of do it because you have to and its healthy?
"You gonna finish that?"
--Fat is cute on babies, not on children over the age of 2. Obesity is caused by an unhealthy, unnatural, unbalanced diet, and a lack of exercise.--
Be a Good Example
Since our kids learn from observing us, we have to make vegetables delicious to ourselves first. Think about how you prepare veggies, and decide if you REALLY like eating them? If you are eating vegetables and are truely enjoying them, your kids will pick up on those vibes and be more eager to eat them as well.
The next rule is variety. How many different kinds of vegetables come into your house? Corn, (dammit corn isnt a proper veggie!), carrots, green beans, salads, tomatoes, maybe broccoli? There's so much more out there. We should all have a wider variety to choose from. Try new things, expand your horizons. They may find some new vegetable that they like. Be able to give them a choice in what vegetable they eat, or what you fix for dinner that evening. Give them a choice in how you prepare it too, if you know a few different ways!
"I Helped! I Made That!"
Children will be much more likely to want something if they helped make it. Take them to the grocery store, or have them help in the garden. Include them, and talk about the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. The color, texture, smell, freshness of the produce. How might it be prepared? Where does this particular vegetable come from? Trips to the store and kitchen can be educational, as well.
Younger children can help in the kitchen by gathering ingredients, bowls, cutting boards, pots and pans. Older and more careful children can place ingredients into the dish, stir, season, and even cut up vegetables. Start them off with a small knife and soft vegetables. Hard veggies such as carrots and potatoes, or slippery and difficult to handle ones like onions should be cut by adults.
Fresh, Colorful, Flavorful
Most vegetables have a fairly short cooking time, and taste best when cooked in a quick, light method. Mushy vegetables feel nasty in your mouth. Some retain their color better than others, some benefit from a little lemon juice added, others not.
Don't force it. Explore it, Contemplate it
"Ok, we have a new vegetable on our plates. Eat it. You don't like it? well, eat it anyway, I bought it!" Can't do that. You should encourage the kids and yourself to try new things...if they honestly don't like it, they don't have to eat it, but let them know you are proud for trying something new. Be open about how YOU feel about the vegetables. Talk about what you think about the flavor and texture. Ask suggestions about how else it could be prepared, or what else would it be good with. What you like may not be the same as what your kids like. Adults have much different taste preferences than children. Also, if something is "yucky" with one method of preparation, it might be delicious with another.
When All Else Fails, Remove Other Options
It may sound harsh, but being a parent is tough, and you can't always be the good guy. They can throw a fit and get mad at you, but so what. Who is in charge of the household, the parent or the child? You go for the "All Or Nothing" approach, either they eat everything on their plate (at least trying the vegetables) or they don't get anything at all. You can modify it however you want...they can sit at the table and watch everyone else eat until they decide to eat, they can be sent away without anything, or the food can be saved for the next day. Time for breakfast. How about that chicken and broccoli you didn't want to eat last night? Don't starve the kids though...they will hold out, or cry and whine until you give in. Trust me, I know. Only allow them to eat meals that include vegetables or fruits. Only offer fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks.
Stop Buying Crap!
Just. Stop it. I've been in many friends' houses, and been a housekeeper for many others, its shocking the amount of unhealthy snack-foods some people buy. Stop buying so many candies, cakes, cookies, chips, and sodas. Even if a snack looks healthy...fruit snacks, fruit rolls, fruit bars...it is probably artificially-flavored, has a minimal amount of fruit or "fruit-flavored pieces", and corn syrup. A dehydrator can be found inexpensively at many places, including thrift stores and yard sales. Fruits and vegetables can be preserved by drying, and then used for many things. Dried vegetables are perfect for making soups and stews. Dried fruits can be eaten as they are, or added to ice cream, yogurt, cereals, oatmeal, or cooked into sauces, puddings, cakes and breads. You can make fruit snacks like roll-ups, and you not only know exactly what is in them, but you can make your own custom flavors too! Have you ever seen papaya-coconut fruit rolls? You can buy pre-packaged natural dry fruits and nuts. Make your own snack mixes! Some vegetables can be eaten dry as a snack, but they may not be sweet enough to suit a child's taste.
I used to have trouble getting my kids to eat anything except fries and mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and tomato sauce. SOMETIMES they would choke down a few canned green beans. Now they pile into the kitchen when I'm fixing supper to help me cook and pilfer a few fresh vegetable "rewards" in the process.
How many kids do you know who would get excited and MMMM, OOOHH and AAHH over the vegetable-rich meal that is prepared? How many kids would request green beans, zucchini, or asparagus, or see a new vegetable and ask if they can try it?
"Mama, I want a snack, Can I have a banana/apple/raisins/dried strawberries/celery/carrot/olives?" I love hearing these words.