It’s one of the great pressures that we feel as parents. The need to get our children to eat their vegetables and that pressure is where things begin to go wrong. Before you go much further ask yourself how much YOU like eating your vegetables. Ask this question because the answer you give should shed some light on your children’s tastes. If you don’t like broccoli why should you expect them to? Remember that food is about personal taste and as they are growing you need to encourage their taste buds without meal times becoming a battlefield, remember you want them to enjoy their food because it tastes good and not because it’s good for them.
It is important to give your child a chance to get to like a new vegetable. If you cook it once and they decide they don’t like it don’t fall at the first hurdle. Sometimes children can take between ten and fifteen attempts to actually eat a vegetable and to recognise and be familiar with its smell, texture and flavour. During all of those ten to fifteen times you need to be setting an example. Sharing a family meal, where you all eat the same food is the most important thing you can do. You need to show that vegetables are lovely and how much you enjoy them yourself.
Try cooking a particular vegetable in a variety of ways, don’t rely on the same way all the time. Each one will result in a slightly different flavour and texture and you will probably find that one way of cooking will win over reluctant hearts and minds. If this still doesn’t work then don’t forget to try a raw version. Two perennial “unfavourites” of many children, broccoli and cauliflower, will go down a real treat if they are served raw and of course they are much richer in nutrients this way. Look at serving size as well. A large chunk of cauliflower can be far more appetising if it is served as small florets.
Children really enjoy learning to cook so spending an afternoon teaching them to cook a particular dish will always encourage them to tackle their vegetables. Remember this is not about getting them to peel the vegetables while you cook, it needs to be about you teaching them to rustle up something good and wholesome.
Most importantly, you need to avoid the pressure situation. Food needs to be enjoyed and that is what you are trying to teach your child. Around the dinner table, don’t talk about how lovely the carrots are, talk about what ‘s being going on during the day. Let your child come to enjoy their food in their way. Give them time, without making it an issue and they will come round if you are setting the right example.
It is also remember that eating their five-a-day is not about eating vegetables. Of course you want them to enjoy as wide a variety of foodstuffs as possible but if they are getting a good selection of fruit they will be getting the required vitamins and nutrients that way so it is another reason to leave the pressure outside of the dining room.