I will start by telling you a little story. This is perhaps a little scary because I’m giving you the opportunity to judge my parenting skills. Two years ago we had the opportunity to bring two little boys into our home. Derek and I were nervous because although we loved children, we had never been parents before. This occasion presented us with the challenge of doubling our family overnight, but we felt like this was a God size opportunity that we could not pass up.
Enter Hayden and Landen… Hayden was quiet and reserved. He was also very protective of his younger brother. Landen on the other hand was very excitable and also a little clumsy. Neither of the boys quite knew what to think of my cooking. I had recently made some serious lifestyle changes to my diet and decided that I wanted to feed my family the healthiest foods possible. This created some interesting drama for our new little family.
Week 2 I served meat and vegetables for dinner. Landen decided that he did not want to eat his celery. So after 20 minutes sitting at the table refusing to eat his celery, I told him that if he didn’t finish it he would not get a Sonic drink. He immediately agreed to this and got up to go play with his toys. Later that evening we left to go to Sonic. Landen sat there quietly as I placed our orders and waited for our drinks to come. As soon as the lady came to the car to give us our drinks, Landen immediately started crying as loud as he possibly could. I reminded him that he chose to not get dessert when he didn’t finish his celery. (Although I doubt that he heard me over his wailing.)
This is just one example of the many adventures we have had adapting to food battles. I’ve learned how to be smarter and pick my battles with more wisdom and grace. The lessons I’ve learned can be summarized into one thought: You can’t force your child (or anyone really) to eat something they don’t want to do. However, you can incentivize a behavior with either positive or negative consequences.
Five tricks to help your kids eat more vegetables:
- Eat more vegetables yourself! As parents you are the ultimate example for your kids! If you don’t take care of yourself and eat junk food all the time, your kids will model that behavior. However, this can also work in your favor when it comes to encouraging your kids to try new things. If you are eating something, your kids will want to eat it! My kids have begged me to make them Brussel Sprouts because I told them that I was only making them for myself! (P. S. I’ve also used this trick with liver!)
- Cook your vegetables! When you cook vegetables it softens them and makes them easier to digest as well as chew. It also helps improve the taste if you cook them in a healthy fat such as butter or coconut oil. Be generous with the spices as well!
- Provide incentives or rewards if they eat their vegetables. My rule of thumb is no dessert unless they finish their vegetables. This might seem counterintuitive because sweets aren’t good for kids. However, the more exposure they have with healthy vegetables the more their taste buds will evolve so they will actually enjoy eating vegetables.
- Require the kids to eat their vegetables first. My sweet Landen has a big appetite, and if he isn’t hungry he will fight me all night to avoid eating his vegetables. However if I have him eat his veggies first, it provides him with additional motivation to finish his veggies without complaining.
- Make vegetables part of every meal. Yes, I know this will be a pain at first but in the long run it will pay off with huge dividends. Children like having a routine and if vegetables are part of your routine as a family they will adapt! Make sure your kids know that vegetables are good for them. Yes, they might not appreciate it now but in the future those habits will serve them well and will translate into healthier behaviors later in life.
Need ideas on how to create healthy, stress free meals for your family (with more veggies)? Check out my Stress Free Meal Plan!