Our expert dietitian Bahee Van De Bor gives her top tips on how to encourage your children to eat their greens
Have you ever wondered how you can get your kids to eat their greens? Today I’ll share some simple tips that you can practice daily at home to encourage children to eat their vegetables.
There’s no denying that some children simply refuse to eat their vegetables. If you ask other parents, they’ll probably tell you that vegetables spark anxiety and tension at the dinner table.
Believe it or not getting children to eat vegetables can be tricky but not impossible. It’s tempting to sneak a spoonful of vegetables into your baby or toddler’s mouth but this can end up backfiring on you. Never force feed your child as they can become resentful and start fearing food at the dining table.
Instead focus on creating a positive and nurturing environment. Follow the top tips below and learn how you can help build your child’s confidence to trying and eating vegetables.
A few top tips for parents
- The art of role modelling. If you are not eating vegetables with your children then start immediately. I tell every client that magic happens at your dining table. When children see you eat and enjoy the goodness of vegetables, overtime they too will mirror your behaviour.
- Invite them into your kitchen. Children love to help grown-ups. By inviting them into your kitchen, children become excited about eating the food that they had a role in creating. You can offer them age appropriate duties such as fetching ingredients for a meal from the fridge, washing and peeling vegetables or stirring vegetables in the saucepan using a wooden spoon.
- Pour over cookbooks. Extending from the tip above, plan the meal that you are going to eat together by leafing through recipe pictures in a cookbook or online. This helps your child feel included in the menu planning process and gives them the opportunity to prepare for what they will be eating during meals.
- Eat your rainbow. Greens are important but it’s equally important to eat from a range of colours. Try a coloured theme if you think this will help your child engage better with vegetables. For example, explain that the activity of the week is to identify and prepare purple and green coloured fruit and vegetables, then switch to yellow and red colours for the following week. Your children can even choose which vegetables they would like to try. This can add an element of fun and positivity around food.
- Amp up the flavour. A plate of steamed green beans or broccoli might come across as a little boring. So why not try making nutritious sauces using lemon juice, natural yoghurt, mustard, sundried tomato paste, garlic and fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, parsley or dill? Mix up the cooking styles between steaming, stir-frying and baking.
- Pre-dinner snacks. Your kids are probably starving when they get home from school. Seize the opportunity here and dish out a tray of sliced seasonal vegetables. Try finger sized sliced cucumber, celery, carrots, sweet peppers or raw cauliflower. The trick is to arrange it beautifully so that it looks visually colourful and appetizing. Offer a delicious but simple accompaniment such as hummus or a yoghurt-based dip.
- Be consistent. It amazes me when parents tell me that they tried the tips for a week but then gave up because their efforts were not rewarded. Be patient and be consistent. Follow the new routine of eating at the table with your children and always model eating vegetables. With continual exposure, your children will give in, taste it and then eventually start eating it.
- Praise, praise and praise! Children absolutely love to be praised so don’t forget to celebrate the wins (even if it’s just a bite of a broccoli). Instead of focusing on the vegetables that they didn’t eat, let them know how pleased you are that they attempted to taste a previously hated vegetable.
As you can see, getting children to eat their vegetables isn’t complicated but it does take time and practice.
Families who implement some of these steps in place do see results after just one consultation with Bahee Van de Bor at her private clinic at GOSH.
Bahee Van de Bor
Specialist Paediatric Dietitian
Having studied nutrition and dietetics at university in New Zealand, she went on to publish her first cookbook for people with renal or kidney disease. At Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Ms Van de Boor works with many different departments to provide expert advice for the children in her care including gastroenterology, SNAPS, nephrology, metabolic medicine and the epilepsy team in reference to the ketogenic diet.
Ms Van de Bor is the owner of UK Kids Nutrition and can provide advice for a number of feeding difficulties and choices (such as breast feeding or weaning) for babies, pre-school children, school age children and adolescents as well as providing advice on exclusion diets including food allergies and aversions, vitamin/mineral intake and weight gain and growth monitoring issues.
Ms Van de Bor regularly teaches at Masters level and to a multidisciplinary audience at national and international level. She recently prepared and delivered a renal teaching module in Kuwait and delivered a lecture on nutrition in children with short gut in France.
Ms Van de Bor is currently developing a web-based application for use by children and families following a ketogenic diet.