Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tips for getting your kids to eat vegetables #peasandthankyou

Getting your kids to eat vegetables can feel like a losing battle.  I know my kids can be nitpicky about this subject!  SocialMoms and Sarah Matheny, author of “Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love,” wanted to know what we bloggers do to get our kids to eat vegetables.  What tactics work best to encourage a love of vegetables, a building block for a healthy life?  Here's a sneak peek into what we do at our house to encourage our kids to eat the vegetables we put on their dinner plate.

1.  Don't ask... If your child is younger, don't ask them if they want peas.  Just put them on their plate!  If you ask permission, you're telling them that it's negotiable.

2.  Accept the fact that ketchup is really a vegetable.  Sure, it's made of tomatoes, salt, and vinegar.  But beneath all that salty tanginess is a vegetable at heart.  If they want to eat ketchup sandwiches for lunch with no meat in between, then console yourself that at least they're eating a veggie.

3.  Be mindful of portions!  Try putting just a small amount of veggies on their dinner plate.  A young child's plate shouldn't look as heaped up as yours, so bear that in mind when you're dishing out the corn and green beans.  If it looks like too much food, they may rebel against eating them because they're afraid you'll make them clean their plate.

4.  Serve vegetables the way they like them.  For our six year old, that means with ketchup.  Yes, ketchup on top of broccoli.  But as long as he eats the broccoli, it's a victory for me.

5.  Ants on a log!  Who says veggies need only appear on your plate at dinner.  Veggies make great snacks and taking a piece of celery, filling it with peanut butter, and then placing "ants" (a/k/a raisins) on top makes the fun healthy, nutritious, and fun.  My kids are more likely to eat veggies presented this way if I allow them to prepare it for their snack.

6.  Try a new vegetable at least once a month.  Venturing into a higher-end grocery store should bring you to a larger variety of vegetables and fruits, many of which you might never have even heard of at all.  Getting your child to try new vegetables can be as easy as planning a special night where everything for dinner is something you've never had before. 

7.  Keep trying.  If your child doesn't like a specific vegetable, still put a little bit on their plate the next time you serve it.  Eventually, your child's tastes might change.  This may also fall under the ketchup rule above -- if it gets covered with something they do like, they may just eat it.

8.  Mix up the veggies.  For the longest time, my daughter wouldn't eat corn.  That is, until she saw her dad mixing his corn into his mashed potatoes.  In order to get her to eat corn, we just mixed it into her mashed potatoes.

9.  Color avoidance?  My son doesn't like green vegetables at all.  Green beans just sit on his plate.  Have them eat green vegetables blindfolded so that they can focus more on the taste than the color.  Make a game of it and they may be surprised that broccoli can taste good once they get past the color issue.  Green broccoli can turn red with ketchup, orange with a ketchup/mayo mixture, or yellow with mustard. 

10.  Three bite rule.  Back in elementary school, our school's cook went around to all of the tables to monitor us kids' progress with our meal.  "Three bites!" she would say if she saw food or veggies untouched.  Our kids want to hurry through dinner, seeing it as a stumbling block keeping them away from a funner, more enjoyable activity.  We sit down as a family for dinner almost every night and don't let our kids leave the table unless they've eaten enough vegetables or meat.  The "Three bites" rule means that they don't leave the table until we think they've eaten enough.

How do you do it?  Do you have some creative ways to encourage your kids to eat their veggies?  We hope that our kids notice that we're eating our vegetables and will see us as good role models.  Though not listed above, I have learned how to prepare vegetables for my children the way they like them.  Broccoli that's too stiff or too limp can be a turn off!  I remember back when I was still pumping my daughter's breast milk, her caregivers were exasperated because she wouldn't drink it and just turned her head away.  They were just warming it, but not heating it to the temp that she would get milk if she actually nursed.  She wanted that milk warmer than they were heating it, and once they tried it at a warmer temp, she more than happily drank the whole bottle.  Serve foods the way your kids like them and they're going to be more likely to eat them.


About Peas and Thank You
Peas and Thank You is a collection of recipes and stories from a mainstream family eating a not-so-mainstream diet. It's filled with healthy and delicious versions of foods we’ve all grown up enjoying, but with a Mama Pea twist—no meat, lots of fresh ingredients and plenty of nutrition for growing Peas. From wholesome breakfasts to mouth-watering desserts, there’s plenty here to satisfy the pickiest Peas in your life. It’s easier than ever to whip up crowd-pleasing meals that will have the whole family asking for, “more, Peas.” Sarah Matheny's delicious recipes and entertaining stories draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to her blog, each month, where she makes raising a vegetarian family easy and fun. She is the author of  “Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love.”

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Peas and Thank You blogging program for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
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