Eat your Veggies

How to get kids to eat veggies

It’s great to grow your own veggies and enjoy the taste of fresh produce straight from the ground, packed with healthy nutrients. But if you’re a parent, you want your kids to benefit too, so how do you get them to eat their veggies?

The Problem

Each child is totally different, but you need to figure out how to win over each one to the green’ side. Take my nine-year-old son for example. He will eat almost anything if there is a paté or dip to go with it, but what he does is eat a bowl of hummus or mayonnaise with one carrot stick, licking off the dip as he goes. Not an ideal situation. And while he quite liked sugar snap peas (maybe because he heard ‘sugar’), he was more interested in taking out the seeds and saving them to grow in the garden. I was not going to argue on that one!

Some tips that may work

There are several tips around to help parents deal with this situation, and I have tried them all (except for forcing my son to eat what’s on his plate, which I think will give him a negative attitude towards food). Even though these tips didn’t work for me, they might work for you, so here they are, with the results of my experiences:

  • Set an example – children learn their eating patterns from their parents. In this instance, and although I have tried to make the other parent feel guilty about it, I have lost the battle of trying to convince an over fifty-year-old to eat his veggies. That’s just not going to happen.
  • Get the kids involved in cooking – if children become more involved in preparing meals, they will be more interested in what they are eating. Somewhat messy, but a great idea and I still think children should learn to cook from an early age, but this still didn’t make my children eat their veggies.
  • Make food fun – plate up their food and use plenty of colour in a fun way, like plating funny faces, or tell stories about dinosaurs that need to outrun a T-Rex by eating five trees (broccoli florets). Children love a story or fun things, but I found that no matter how you pretty up a plate with baby tomato eyes and carrot noses, they remained on the plate after the ‘good’ stuff was eaten.
  • Insist they have just one bite – it is said that children must be exposed to a food at least 8-10 times before the food is accepted. This rule does work, but not enough to get loads of veggies into a child. One bite for him means one bite and not one bite of each type of veggie on the plate.
  • Keep at it – this requires loads of patience and we all want our kids to grow up happy and healthy, so yes, we will continue. In this instance, and although I have tried to make the other parent feel guilty about it, I have lost the battle of trying to convince an over fifty-year-old to eat his veggies. That’s just not going to happen.

The solution

I realised that as long as my son could identify the vegetables in the food (and he could, no matter how small I diced them), I was on a losing streak. So I got sneaky and decided to hide all the veggies. I steamed a selection of vegetables and blended them together, then added this sauce to dishes like macaroni and cheese or spaghetti bolognaise, and even these chicken nuggets, which contain loads of veggies but still win over my son. More importantly, they are good for him. One day I will tell him how many veggies he ate, but for now I’m finally winning the veggie battle!

Summer Lollies

Make your own ice-lollies using juiced vegetables, with a little fruit juice for sweetness. Kids love these and they are getting their vitamins at the same time. We used a Zoku system for these – it makes lollies in just eight minutes, outside of the freezer! Quick and easy!

Chicken and veggie nuggets

Surprisingly good, these are tasty enough to please the whole family.

500g minced chicken
250g vegetables, chopped (I used a combination of zucchini, butternut and carrots)
1 egg
Salt and pepper
Place the vegetables in a steamer and steam them until soft. Blend these with the egg until smooth. Add the chicken mince and blended veggies to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Wet your hands and take spoonfuls of the mixture to make balls, then dip them in breadcrumbs and flatten them. Place on a silicon-sprayed baking tray and bake at 180°C for around 10-12 minutes. Best served hot with mayonnaise for dipping.

The Gardener