Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ten Tips & Tricks to Get Kids to Eat More Veggies

We all know that vegetables are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and fiber that are important to children's health and growth, but it's not always easy to get the kids to eat and enjoy their veggies. To brainstorm for solutions to this common problem, SocialMoms has teamed up with Sarah Matheny, author of “Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love,” on a new blogging program, which encourages moms to share creative veggie recipe ideas. The first 50 qualified participants will each receive a $30 gift card!

I'm lucky to have a child who loves to eat veggies, so I never really have to make an effort to get him to eat vegetables. But still, I've got some tips for growing a veggie lover.

1. Introduce vegetables into your child's diet from early on. Babies' food preferences can be "forged" by parents. Babies who start with mild flavored foods are more receptive to low-sodium meals when they grow up. Likewise, introducing vegetables to babies are likely to get them used to the tastes and texture. As early as 4-6 months, you may start adding homemade vegetable juice to your baby's daily diet. Mashed vegetables make a great staple type of baby food. There is no need to add any additional flavors at this stage.

2. Make a colorful presentation. From my experience, kids love to eat dishes that are visually appealing. Mixing veggies with different colors are more likely to get kids to taste it.

3. Set a good example as a veggie lover. Kids like to learn from their parents. It's important for parents to be a positive role model. Both my husband and I love to eat vegetables. When we eat veggies, we show our son that we enjoy them a lot with facial expressions and sounds. My son will then be convinced that vegetables taste delicious.

4. Diversify the ways to cook veggies. Kids and adults alike love varieties. Experiment with different ways to cook veggies: fresh veggie salads, steamed, boiled, stir-fry, grilled veggies, etc--and your kid will sure find her favorite way to eat her veggies.

5. Tell kids about the benefits of vegetables. We often tell our son that eating vegetables will help him grow taller and stronger and that not eating them will make him sick. This motivates him to eat his veggies happily.

6. Make up interesting stories about vegetables. Kids love small animals like rabbits, squirrels, and piggies. Tell stories stressing how these animals love vegetables and that it is vegetables that make them so cute.

7. Don't force kids to eat vegetables that they hate. Each individual has her unique taste preferences. Kids are no exception. Forcing your child to eat vegetables that she absolutely hates will make her feel like being punished and thus more unwilling to try them in the future.

8. Make eating veggies a fun activity. Eating can be as enjoyable as a game. Cut vegetables into interesting shapes or make them part of a counting or sorting exercise. Kids are more likely to cooperate when they think eating veggies is fun.

9. Introduce stems before leaves. Vegetable stems are easier to chew and digest than leaves. For young kids, start with stems and move onto leaves (preferably cut into small pieces) when they get familiar with the taste.

10. Try new veggies and flavors. Again, variety wins. Kids can get tired of eating the same kind of vegetables day after day. Introduce something new from time to time, especially vegetables that may become great substitutes for the ones that your child hates.

I hope you'll find these tips useful. Please visit SocialMoms for more great tips and tricks from Sara Matheny and other members of the community.

Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Peas and Thank You blogging program for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate,click here.

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