When I serve my daughter vegetables on a plate, more often than not she’ll turn her nose up in distaste and claim that she doesn’t like vegetables. Thankfully I’ve noticed there are certain situations when she’ll happily eat all her vegetables. For example, if I sit her on a bench next to a jar of fresh sprouts, or help her harvest veggies from our garden, she’ll gobble them up in no time at all!
It seems there’s something about being ‘involved’ in the growing or selection of vegetables that makes them more appealing to children. I thought I’d share four tips that encourage my daughter to eat her vegetables. Perhaps what works for my child will work for yours also?
1. Grow food on the kitchen bench
Growing sprouts or microgreens on the kitchen bench makes it easy for children to be involved in growing their own food. Growing sprouts is quick and simple, with many being ready to eat in only a few days. My daughter especially loves crunchy Mung Bean and Pea sprouts.
2. Set up a backyard vegetable garden
If you have the space, a backyard vegetable garden is a great way to help your child connect with nature, and their food. Plant some quick growing vegetables, like radishes, lettuce, and sunflowers so they don’t lose interest.
Vegetables that can be eaten straight from the garden, like cherry tomatoes, peas, beans and corn, are also great gardening choices for children. My daughter will often wander through the garden picking and eating cherry tomatoes, beans, and even herbs. A freshly picked, sun-warmed home-grown tomato is far tastier than a hard cold supermarket one.
3. Make shopping an experience rather than a chore
A visit to the farmers market, or to a local farm to pick your own vegetables, is so much fun for children, and much more exciting than the grocery store. Let them choose the vegetables. Stop and chat to a farmer. If those carrots you’re cooking for dinner come with a story, your child is more likely to eat them. Our local farmers market even has face-painting, pony rides, and bouncy castles, so thankfully our weekly visit to the farmers market is seen as a treat rather than a chore.
4. Involve children in the kitchen
Cooking with your children gets them involved in the process and they’re more likely to eat something they’ve been involved in creating. Of course, letting them help means more time and more mess, but the benefits far outweigh the hassles. Learning to cook is a skill your children can use for the rest of their lives and can also help build self-confidence.
Even very young children can safely help. They can wash vegetables, mash, mix and measure.
And if your child still rejects vegetables after all these experiences?
No problem. You’ve probably heard that children need to be exposed to a food 10, 20 or 50 times before they develop a taste for them. Each of the above experiences count as an exposure. Growing, gardening, watching, choosing, picking, chopping, and cooking, all take your child one step closer to loving vegetables.
“Don’t force vegetables down their throat. Get the children involved and you’ll be surprised how quickly they grow to accept vegetables in their diet,”
– Mr Churchill, AUSVEG
Do you have any helpful tips for encouraging children to love vegetables? I’d love to hear them.