I’m Heather, an Ohio transplant who moved to the South for love and warm winters. I write on health and fitness as well as Strongman competition at GenXXL.com. Twitter: @heathergenxxl
Do your kids eat veggies? Do they ask for them? I have three small children, ages 5, 3, and 2, with a fourth on the way. Because they’ve grown up being served fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack, their go-to question is, “May I have a piece of fruit?”. This isn’t some weird anomaly, my children have been trained to eat well and enjoy it.
There are many ways to help your children learn healthy eating, and I’ve got some ideas for different age groups in this post. I hope you find something that will help you with your own family!
1. Most importantly: start young. Kids who don’t know anything different won’t argue.
If you’ve got a baby that’s ready for solids, don’t start with rice cereal. Start with mashed avocado and then bananas. They’re perfect first foods, can be mashed on demand, and come in their own portable packaging.
2. Don’t give them any other options. There are many ways to determine dinnertime boundaries. In our family, the rules are easy. You don’t have to eat anything, everything is optional. However, if you choose not to eat, there will be no treat. I also will not prepare a different meal.
I’m not a nutritional purist who doesn’t allow junk food, but I have rules. Treat is usually a square of organic chocolate, strawberry soup, or grapefruit chia. Since my husband chooses to eat junk food, occasionally he will give them 2-3 jelly beans.
Didn’t start early? It’s never too late. My husband grew up eating canned vegetables, and thought he didn’t like veggies for this reason.
I remember once we went out to dinner at Leona’s in Chicago. We has only been dating a few months, and I was excited to tuck into a huge bowl of pasta.
It had artichokes, asparagus, fresh mozzarella, and red sauce. It was beautiful, a sight to behold. I (lovingly) offered husband a bite of my beloved asparagus, and he sneered, literally sneered, at me.
3. Roast or saute your vegetables. These are the two ways to prepare veggies that almost no one can resist. The first is roasting, because it brings out the natural sweetness. The second is sautéing with onion and garlic in olive. Give it a shot!
If you’ve got a really reluctant child, I suggest beginning with the sweetest and mildest vegetables. Slicing sweet potatoes into rounds, drizzled with olive or coconut oil and salt, then broiled for 10-15 minutes makes a sweet and simple veggie side.
We choose not to eat corn or potatoes as “vegetables”. I don’t really enjoy white potatoes, so we don’t typically have them in our home. I love a cob of corn in the summer (that’s the Ohio girl in me), but if we have it, we also have at least one green vegetable.
4. Add chopped, sauteed veggies to pasta sauce. You can puree it if you have to, but I prefer it to be chunky. We make it a game to identify what sort of veggie we’re eating in the sauce. Is it a carrot? A bell pepper? A chunk of zucchini?
We also love taste tests. The farmer’s market is a wonderful way to try new things, so if you have access to one, it’s a great place to spend a Saturday morning. It’s also amazing for children to be able to ask questions of farmers. You’ll find they’re generally obliging to children’s curiosity.
When I was in third grade, my teacher had a taste test of then-exotic foods. She brought jicama, papaya, kiwi, pomegranate, and starfruit. It was such neat experience, and I still remember what it was like to put that first piece of kiwi in my mouth. I want my children to have those sorts of experiences with food, too!
5. Cut your vegetables into fun shapes. I have an inexpensive tool called a spiralizer that makes wonderful noodles out of zucchini. I serve these as “pasta” with whatever sauce I’d normally use. You don’t have to cook them, just slice and cover with sauce. If the sauce is hot, it will soften the zucchini a bit. My kids weren’t sure at first, but now they ask for “green noodles” regularly.
6. Drink green smoothies. After my third child was born, I was about eighty pounds overweight. Having three children in less than four years and working from home full-time had really taken a toll on my eating habits *cough* Taco Bell *cough*.
I got serious about nutrition somewhat by happenstance. I was reading a blog called Walk Slowly, Live Wildly, and Sara mentioned green smoothies. Intrigued, I clicked over to one of her other blogs called Happy Foody to read about her green smoothie challenge.
Appropriately challenged, I decided to make one for myself. I didn’t have a high-powdered blender at the time, but I made it work in the one I had. From that day on, I was serious.
I started grinding my own grains for bread, incorporating 10-15 servings of raw fruits, vegetables, and greens into my daily diet, and put us on a mostly vegan diet.
That’s not to say there weren’t hiccups. I made a couple of gross dishes. My dehydrator doesn’t get as much use as it should, and we still eat some meat and dairy. However, I lost ninety pounds in nine months with a combination of good nutrition and lots of exercise. And to think, it all started with a smoothie!
Here’s my go-to smoothie recipe for beginners.
1 large handful baby spinach
Blend until well mixed. Add:
2 ripe bananas
Blend until smooth and enjoy!
It’s easy, delicious, and has 6-8 servings of fruits and veggies. This recipe makes about 6 cups.
I tend to have a quart per day as a meal, then give each of the kids a pint. They love their green smoothie mustaches! I’ve got more green smoothie recipes to share if you’re interested!
7. Final tips: Do NOT hide vegetables. That perpetuates the belief in children that they don’t LIKE vegetables. It also treats children like they’re unintelligent, which drives me up a wall.
Allow children to help prepare food. Of course small children can’t use sharp knives, but they can tear lettuce for a salad. They can use descriptive words for each vegetable that you’re cutting to expand their vocabularies and palettes at the same time.
Don’t eat fast food regularly. When children become accustomed to the fat, salt, and artificial ingredients of those foods, they believe that they like them. So much of the way we eat is based upon conditioning. Let’s condition our children well!
I hope you’ve found at least one new way to help your children love vegetables. I’d love to read your tips and comments!
(read why here) on soy: http://genxxl.com/diet-nutrition/soy-myth-vs-fact/
Walk Slowly, Live Wildly: http://walkslowlylivewildly.com/
Happy Foody: www.happyfoody.com
green smoothie recipes: http://genxxl.com/diet-nutrition/a-new-look-at-smoothies/