Believe it or not, my 7-year old daughter routinely requests vegetables at breakfast. Yes, you heard me right. Breakfast.
She’s been a veggie lover since birth. They say a child’s taste buds form in the womb based on what the mother eats, and I ate loads of vegetables while I was pregnant. It’s no surprise that one of her early words was kale.
You might be new to getting on a healthy eating track for yourself while trying to get the family on board. I often get asked the question, “How do I get my kids to eat more vegetables?” If you’re dealing with a picky eater, I’ve got some great tips for you.
First off, let’s talk about why it’s so important for your kids to fall in love with veggies, especially dark leafy ones. (Also why you need them too!)
Simple leafy green vegetables like kale and collard greens are a nutritional super food. So move over maca, along with all the other exotic super foods that are en vogue these days. Dark green veg is the way to go.
Kale, for example, provides more antioxidants than most other fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants protect your kid’s developing bodies from cellular breakdown by fighting free radicals, which are harmful molecules that have been linked to various diseases including cancer.
To explain the benefits of antioxidants to your kids, keep it simple by sharing that the antioxidants are like superheroes, and free radicals are the “bad guys”. The antioxidant superheroes fight off the free radical bad guys. If kids know that eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and veggies will provide them with more superhero antioxidants, they might be open to trying new ones. Make sure to get your superhero antioxidants too. When you are enjoying those green veggies yourself, you’re role modeling good eating habits and your kids are likely to follow your lead.
Dark leafy green veggies also have a positive effect on mental clarity and mood, which is great for kids and for us grown-ups! The choline found in turnip greens and collard greens helps with proper nerve function, improved sleep, memory, and learning. The folate content in dark leafy green vegetables has been shown to reduce depression by regulating your body’s homocysteine levels. All around, dark leafy green vegetables are one of the most nutrient dense foods you and your kids can eat. They provide you with lots of antioxidants and fiber, as well as vitamins A, C, K, folate, magnesium, calcium, protein and iron.
Here are three doable tips to get your kids to fall in love with vegetables.
Have your kids help prepare them.
When your kids get to rip the kale leaves off the stems or do some chopping with a child-safe plastic knife, they’ll be much more interested in eating recipes they helped make.
Make your dishes pretty and kid-friendly.
Chop vegetables in small bite-size pieces for your kids to enjoy. Remember ROY G. BIV? Create a rainbow on a platter of steamed red radishes, butternut squash, yellow summer squash, broccoli florets, and red cabbage. (Okay, I merged the BIV into red cabbage.) Watch them be tickled with the fun presentation!
Don’t give up.
Most kids, when given the chance to develop a taste for dark leafy greens, actually begin to enjoy them and crave them. If your lovely side dish gets rejected once, twice or a few times, just keep that quiet confidence that time is on your side. They say you have to introduce a new food 10 times or more before kids will acquire a taste for it, so the key is patience and knowing that “no” just means “not yet.”
I hope these tips help your family to enjoy healthy meals together. Your efforts will pay off. Know that you’re building your child’s immunity for life with the nourishing food you give them today.