Getting children to eat their vegetables is often frustrating for parents. Vegetables are essential to good heart health, so if you and your child are struggling, hang in there. There are ways to get your children to eat vegetables without making it a chore or punishment; after all, the goal is to get your child accustomed to eating vegetables and choosing to eat them on their own.
Be patient: Research shows that it can take up to 15 times of trying a new food to become accustomed to it. Remember every time you insist that your child try a vegetable or take one bite, you are getting closer. Be consistent.
Make it fun: Although some parents steer away from “playing” at the table during mealtime, a contest or game can sometimes motivate children to finish what is on their plate. Challenge a small child to be a superhero and to eat all of the green vegetables in order to power up.
Limit snacks in between meals: Children who have filled up on snacks are less likely to eat what is on their plate.
Let your children help prepare meals: Children are apt to show more interest in a meal after they have helped to prepare it.
Grow a garden with your child: Prepare a meal with what your child has grown and watch your child glow with pride.
Be a good role model: Set the example by eating vegetables in front of your children.
Allow your children to go grocery shopping and plan a meal: Let your child choose a vegetable to be eaten.
Add vegetables to a dish your child already enjoys: Add cauliflower to macaroni and cheese, for example.
Serve your child vegetables first: The vegetables are more likely to be eaten if your child has not filled up on the rest of the meal.
When all else fails, you can always sneak the vegetables into your child’s diet. Adding some broccoli to spaghetti sauce will not prompt children to choose vegetables on their own, but it will allow parents to feel confident that their children are eating vegetables and reaching recommended servings in the meantime.
The American Heart Association recommends that children are served 4-5 servings daily of a variety of fruits and vegetables. Recommended vegetable serving sizes range from ¾ cup a day at age 1 to 3 cups for a 14-18-year-old boy.
The Children’s Hospital of Georgia’s Pediatric Heart Program offers registered dieticians as support for our patients and their families. Visit us at augustahealth.org/chog or call 706-664-0585 for more information.
Source: American Heart Association