BY JACLYN BRICE
Special to the Star Journal
When it comes to feeding children, one of the most common questions we often hear is “how do I get them to eat more vegetables?” This is something that most caregivers either already have or will struggle with at some point, myself included! Here are some proven tips and tricks to incorporate more vegetables into a child’s daily diet empowering them to make healthier decisions.
Get them involved
Children are much more invested in a meal that they have helped to prepare. Whether it is taking them to the farmers market, letting them pick out the ingredients in the grocery store or growing the vegetables in a garden, they are sure to be more interested in eating them when they have played a part in preparing them. Leading them to think it is all “their idea” helps to generate interest and a sense of ownership over their food choices.
Lead by example
Kids eat what they know; I’m sure you can all think of a childhood meal that brings back memories, whether you liked it or hated it; you correlate it with your childhood and a particular emotion. Kids aren’t going to ask for a specific food or meal if they don’t know what it is. It has long been determined that the best predictor of a child’s health habits, especially when it comes to food is determined by the people most commonly around them at meal or snack time. Don’t eat junk food in front of a child and expect for them to just ignore it, as inquisitive children they will naturally want what you have, so make it a healthy choice!
Have fun with it
Make shapes and animals out of fruits and vegetables on their plate. Play a game called “eat the rainbow” while having the child practice their colors or counting skills. Tell them how the healthy foods will give them power such as carrots or sweet potatoes will help them to see really far and spinach will make them big and strong like Popeye! Show them pictures of dinosaurs or other animals that only eat vegetables.
Try anything once
Don’t force them to eat foods that they don’t like although by enforcing the “one bite rule” they will at least begin to broaden their horizons. Even if they didn’t like it the night before, try preparing it a different way and having them try it again at a later time. Persistence is key when it comes to introducing new foods. If you find a vegetable they do like such as mashed potatoes, try adding some steamed cauliflower or navy beans to it without them noticing or adding steamed carrots to mashed sweet potatoes.
Use positive reinforcement
Tell them how proud you are of them for trying new things and reward them with non-food items such as playing with play dough or sidewalk chalk. Looking at healthy food in a positive way will encourage them to choose those foods first when given options.
Don’t give up
As daunting as it may seem at times and you just want to give in and hand them the potato chips instead of carrots for a snack, keep in mind that as humans we are very much creatures of habit and habits aren’t formed overnight. Healthier eating is not only linked to improved overall health but increased concentration which may result in better grades in school.
Jaclyn Brice is a Health Coach With Ministry Medical Group, part of Ascension.