I’ve seen a good share of fussy eaters in my time, but adult clients don’t have anything on fussy kids. I know my mother went through it with me. I see my friends and clients go through it with their children, and I know I’m going to have to tackle the issue at some stage too. How do you get children to eat more vegetables? It’s an age old question.
There are not many recent stats, but the ones which are there are not too good. The ABS National Health Survey from 2007-08 indicated 57 per cent of children aged 5-7 and only 32 per cent of children aged 8-11 ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. The older we get the stats get worse! In 2011-12 not even 9 per cent of Australian adults (8.2% to be exact) consumed the recommended serves of vegetables. (Australian Health Survey)
How can you encourage your child to eat more vegetables?
- Lead by example
The best predictor of a child’s eating behavior is that of their parents. If they see you eating a wide variety of vegetables, they are more likely to.
- Make healthy food and vegetables the norm
If vegetables are in abundance in your fridge and they are always offered as an option children will accept them and eat them, whereas if they are an irregular item, they will less likely be eaten.
- Get children involved
Talk about why vegetables are good and let your children pick one or two when at the supermarket and plan how they want to eat then. If old enough, involve them in the cooking progress. And if you have the space, start a veggie garden at home.
- The one bite rule
Research shows it can take 8-15 times of trying a food before it is actually accepted. Think of when you try a new food. Do you like it straight again? Keep offering it and encourage your little ones to have one bite each time. This has helped many parents increase the vegetable variety in their children. Do not force them to finish it though as this can then lead to negative feelings towards the food.
- Make food fun
Food, particularly healthy food should not be scary or a chore. My partner always recalls being happy to eat his broccoli and cauliflower, as he was encouraged to pretend he was a giant and he was eating trees. Relate foods back to fun and children are more likely to eat.
- Disguise veggies in the food they love
Grate carrot and zucchini into your Bolognese sauce or make a combination of potato, sweet potato and carrot mash.
- Add small vegetables to any dish
Use veggies such as corn, peas, chopped carrots and capsicum to fried rice or any other dish you can think of.
Here’s another recipe to try:
Hash Brown Fritters
15 minutes preparation time, 10 minutes cooking time
- 1 small onion, sliced thinly
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated, excess water squeezed out
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 zucchini, grated
- ¼ cup self-raising flour
- 1 egg, whisked
- Spray a large frying pan with olive oil spray and sauté onion until it starts turning brown. Add the grated sweet potato, carrot and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes stirring evenly.
- Remove vegetables from the heat, transfer to a heatproof bowl and add self-raising flour. Add whisked egg and combine all ingredients well.
- Reheat the frying pan on high and add spray again with olive oil spray. Spoon large serves of the vegetable mixture into the pan (as you would pancakes). Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve as a side to your choice of protein and other salad vegetables.