It's an unfortunate reality that children simply don't eat enough vegetables. According to the Government of Canada, children and young adults have such poor diets and get so little exercise that obesity rates among this demographic tripled over the past three decades.
If given the option, children would just eat cookies, ice cream and soda all day. It's up to parents to take an active role in their children's diet instead of relying on fast food and convenience stores. Here are ways to get your children to eat and enjoy their vegetables:
Get them involved
How many times have you and your child baked a cake together and your little one couldn't wait to taste the final product? Getting involved in creating something makes the end result even more fun. Children delight in seeing their hard work come together, especially if it's an activity they enjoy. Have your child help in the kitchen by measuring spices, arranging ingredients on the counter, stirring dishes as they simmer and spooning food onto the tableware for family dinner. Not only do they get to participate in a fun activity, but they also get to feel like a grown up.
Think about the entree
When presented with a plate of chicken nuggets and steamed broccoli, children naturally gravitate to the former and avoid the latter. But what happens when, instead of nuggets, kids get a baked potato with their broccoli? According to The Washington Post, research from Texas A&M University found kids in this situation will probably eat more of the vegetable.
It all comes down to the combination of entree and side dish, researchers said. Children are more likely to eat vegetables when they share a plate with a food that doesn't hog all the attention. When kids always have the option of eating a burger, macaroni and cheese or a sloppy Joe along with their peas, carrots or green beans, they're going to fill up on the food that they think tastes better. The trick is to make vegetables just as enticing these main dishes or pair them with a less-exciting entree.
"Experiment with different dishes to see what your children like best."
Cook a variety of dishes a variety of ways
Making steamed peas over and over again won't make your child inclined to eat vegetables of any kind. Instead of relying on the same staples, experiment with different dishes to see what your children like best.
Vegetables have a reputation for being bland, but consider incorporating recipes from other cultures where these foods play a bigger part in the local diet. People in India use eggplant, squash, gourds and leafy plants like spinach and mustard greens to make incredible curry dishes. Italians rely on high-quality olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, white cooking wine and oregano to make a variety of delicious salads and roasted vegetables. You could also try making soups - leek soup is high in protein, and pumpkin soup is great for late fall and early winter.
Kids are quick to judge vegetables and don't understand how tasty they can be. As Quartz noted, children who reject a certain food on the first try often come to like it after tasting it a few more times. If your child doesn't like the taste of lima beans, zucchini or any other vegetable, keep giving it to them over time. After the 10th bite, they might find out they actually like it.
Getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a struggle, but it's not a hopeless effort. All it takes is a little investment on your end, and your kids will come to love a variety of delicious, healthy foods.