Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vegetables for children

Your child can learn to love vegetables. A healthy attitude and a love of vegetables is a great gift to give your child and this can be established at a young age. Children who do not have good eating habits may end up dieting, struggling with their weight, or having ill health. Vegetables can play a vital role in giving your child the necessary nutrients required for healthy growth.

Encouraging a love of vegetables is not always an easy task and some children will need more persuasion than others. If eating and enjoying vegetables is part of your family’s lifestyle, much like cleaning your teeth or having a shower, then your child is more likely to accept the idea.

Children like familiar foods but research shows that children may need to try a ‘new’ food or flavour 7-10 times before it becomes ‘familiar’. Therefore, new foods, or the same food cooked differently, may need to be offered many times before your child accepts it. Don’t give up after the 3rd or 4th rejection thinking that the child doesn’t like it. Perseverance will pay off, so keep offering just a little of the new flavour.

Normalise vegetables
Many parents expect children to dislike vegetables and reinforce that belief with their comments. Treat the eating of vegetables as a normal occurrence and try to avoid comments such as “if you eat your vegetables, you can have some pudding”. Encourage all your family to eat 5+ A day. If someone in your family doesn’t eat vegetables then your child also may not want to.

Be positively involved with vegetables

Attitudes about vegetables are caught rather than taught so it’s important that your children see you eating and enjoying different vegetables. Don’t give food as a reward. A trip to the park, a story or something non-food related is a better treat!

Involve your children

Take your children shopping and get them to help select vegetables. If they prepare, cook and help serve vegetables you may be surprised at how much more they will eat. Getting children involved in the process of growing vegetables can also make them more interested.

Be realistic with your expectations

There are so many different tastes and textures so it is unrealistic to expect your child to like every type of vegetable. However, it is also unlikely that a child won’t like any but it may take some perseverance to find the one they do like.

Go with the flow

Don’t worry whether your children are eating enough, or any, vegetables. Just ‘go with the flow’ but regularly offer vegetables to your family and your child. Eventually your child will eat some. Don’t make a fuss if children leave vegetables, but offer them again at the next meal. Have fun at mealtimes – happy, relaxed children are more receptive to new foods.

Food for whole family

The aim is for your children to eat the same food as the rest of the family. Even if you make strong flavoured or spicy food that your child may not like, still give them a little to expose them to the different flavours. Remember that it can take as many as 10 times to familiarise a child with certain foods before they like it.

Make it easy on yourself

Add a special touch to the meal. Children love eating a face made of salad, or to see their name written with sauce. However, don’t make this the norm. Keep life easy and let vegetables become a natural part of your family’s lifestyle.

  • Serve vegetables raw and cooked. Present them in different ways, such as new cuts or shapes.
  • Offer a wide range of vegetables and introduce new varieties. If a vegetable is rejected, next time serve it differently.
  • Children can be very fussy – even the vegetable’s colour, or it being served on the wrong plate, can be the difference between eating the vegetable or not.
  • Add some carrot or celery to a plate that includes some of the more ‘expected’ foods when serving up TV or after school snacks.
  • Take a bag of baby carrots on a picnic, or pop carrot sticks into their lunchbox.

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