“Mommy, can you get me some more, please?”, my daughter asks as I get up from our evening dinner with family and friends. She looks at me with a wide smile checkered, showing off missing teeth that the tooth fairy had already taken away just a few nights ago. I meet her smile with my own, grabbing her empty plate and ask what she would like more of, while progressing to the radiating warmth of the kitchen stove.
“Broccoli!” she belts outs!
In awe, a fellow mom turns to me and asks, “How do you get your kids to eat vegetables?”
I get asked this question a lot, because my kids do eat vegetables — a lot of vegetables. If your kids don’t eat vegetables, its not because I’m a better mom than you. It’s not because I’m smarter, a better cook or have the ability to perform Jedi mind tricks.
My kids eat vegetables because I happen to know the secret to getting kids to eat vegetables.
That’s right. The hallowed secret, passed down by generations of moms of every culture, race and creed. A secret that holds the keys to health. It has been passed down from mother-to-mother, generation-to-generation, yet has been all but lost in our culture of fast and processed “food”. But if you come closer, I’m gonna tell you.
The secret to getting kids to eat vegetables is…………
Serve them vegetables!
That’s right. Children whose parents serve them vegetables…. Eat vegetables!
Children whose parents serve them unidentified chicken parts morphed into nuggets and fried along with tubes of genetically modified gluten bathed in day glow yellow #5 cheese flavored gravy eat…not vegetables!
And it’s not really even food!
I received this amazing secret and put it to the test.
It works, and has for centuries. Ask your grandmother.
Our job as parents is to give our children the best possible start in life, and to develop habits that build strong bodies and healthy immune systems that we hope will carry them into a healthy adulthood. We don’t want our children to suffer—now or later when they’ve grown. Allergies, asthma, attention and behavior problems, learning issues, recurrent ear infections, eczema, even autoimmune disease and cancers are more prevalent in children with poor nutrition.
Let them play with their food
Children use all their senses to learn, and learning to like new foods is no different. Let them touch, smell, experiment with the texture. As long as it’s not at a restaurant or you are a guest at dinner, there really is no harm done here.
Children learn not only through play, but also through observation. When your child first learned to talk, you didn’t need to say, “move your mouth this way, place your tongue here, and press your top teeth against your bottom lip…. You simply spoke to them. Same with walking. You didn’t need to tell them how to shift their body weight, bend a knee, etc. They learned through observing. Your children need to see you preparing, eating, and enjoying vegetables daily.
Salty, crispy, buttery. That’s what kids love about nuggets, fries and fish crackers. It’s easy to make practically any veggie taste great with butter or olive oil and sea salt. Here are a few family favorites to try:
- “Fries” made out of roasted green beans
- Roasted kale chips with sea salt
- Sautéed spinach with bacon
- Broccoli trees sautéed in garlic and olive oil
- Carrot coins with butter and a touch of cinnamon and raw honey
- Almost any veggie that is mashed liked mashed potatoes and served with salt and butter
There is a lot of advice as to how to hide veggies in your kids’ meals. But with nutrition, honesty is the best policy. Your kids won’t learn a lasting habit of eating vegetables if you hide them. Plus you’d be cheating them of the pleasures of eating vegetables.
Cook with your kids
You don’t need to go vegetarian, but if you buy a beautifully illustrated vegetarian cookbook, or browse the vegetable section of any other type of cookbook, or search online, you and your child can choose dishes to cook together. Also don’t treat vegetables as if they are “vegetables” treat them as food, and prepare them together in delicious ways.
Soup is the easiest way to incorporate veggies without hiding them. I usually introduce a new and unusual vegetable this way, in a soup I know they already like. Making “Stone Soup” is lots of fun, and you can read the book together and then make it with veggies on hand.
20-years-ago our moms would never guess that kids would eat pureed beans with garlic and sesame seed paste. These days most kids love to eat it—and call it hummus! Change your thinking about feeding your kids and you will change how they eat, and change their future health.
Now that you know the secret, pass it on!
Razi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.