We all know what it’s like don’t we. You’ve spent hours preparing dinner, slaving over the proverbial hot stove and your lovely four year old has just decided his not going to eat his vegetables.

While sending them to bed hungry make work in the short term; it is not going to help cultivate that love of vegetables that will be so vital for disease prevention in later life. In this article we look at our Naturopath’s top ten tips for getting your children to love their veggies!

Tip 1: Avoid the PCBs

I’m not talking about petrochemicals, or even commercial fertilisers here, though both are good candidates to avoid. I am talking about the dreaded frozen peas, carrots and broccoli!

Let’s face it, there’s no way to make frozen vegetables taste like anything more than cardboard and we all know that flavour is key for these connoisseurs.

If the convenience of reduced preparation times for frozen vegetables is too attractive, many supermarkets now stock fresh vegetables in prepared packages that can substantially reduce preparation time.

Tip 2: Seduce their Senses

Children have not had their senses dulled by years of abuse the way adults have. Using foods and preparation styles that appeal to as many senses as possible will increase the enjoyment of foods.

For example:

  • Stimulate them with smells of fresh smelling herbs like basil, oregano and rosemary;
  • Excite their eyes with the amazing colours and visuals of vegetables like artichoke, button squash and fresh grated beet root;
  • Tickle their touch with feathers of dill;

Tip 3: Apply to Their Curiosity

As everyone knows, children are particularly curious about their environment and new experiences. Ask anyone with young children how hard it is too make sure that everything is toddler safe!

Harness this curiosity to help children develop a love of vegetables by planting and growing your own. While not a short term solution to increasing vegetable consumption the process of growing, caring for and harvesting vegetables will make children far more interested in tasting the results of their work.

Tip 4: Variety Is The Spice of Life

Sure, that yummy broccoli, kale and sweet capsicum stir fry you made on Monday night tasted great! Tuesday night it wasn’t too bad and Wednesday night it was okay.

If you don’t like eating the same thing over and over again don’t expect your kids too either. Explore a variety of fresh vegetables and cooking methods. Simple differences in preparation can make enormous changes to flavour and texture keeping vegetables fun and exciting.

Tip 5: If At First You Don’t Succeed

You know the old saying, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. Nothing could be truer with children and vegetables.

It has been suggested that children need to see a food a number of times before they will even try it. Introduce new foods regularly, and don’t be put off if it’s not a hit the first time.

Tip 6: Theming Your Foods

Children have a far more fertile imagination than adults that can be harnessed to turn vegetables from mundane to an exotic experience.

Have you ever wondered how much a pirate would enjoy sailing into New Orleans for a Jambalaya stocked up with peppers, capsicums and tomatoes? What would it be like to puree your meals on a space station to eat in zero gee? Or join Indiana Jones as he sits down to a traditional Aztec meal loaded with tomato, avocado, pumpkin, and sweet potato.

Look online for quick and easy recipes from a variety of cultures and start to integrate some of these into your child’s favourite stories.

Tip 7: Lead by Example

Don’t want your kids to be fussy eaters? Well, don’t be yourself!

We all know how quickly and easily children seem to be able to absorb the wrong attitudes, habits and opinions. If they see you slipping the squash to the dog, they won’t be eating them for much longer either.

When choosing which vegetables to use for dinner make sure they are vegetables that any other adults at the table will also eat setting the best possible example.

Tip 8: Forget the Knives & Forks For a While

While we all know that good table manners typically entail the use of cutlery, have you ever noticed how much more enjoyment we get out of eating without them? There is something satisfying to our primal natures in resorting to eating with fingers.

Vegetables are ideal served on skewers, in wraps or inside the shell of scooped out zucchini, egg plants and capsicums. Even the simplicity of raw carrot and celery sticks with hummus can make for hours of fun.

Quick and easy to prepare using the hands is delightfully messy for children.

Tip 9: Rename Veggies with A Bad Reputation

Like it or not there are some veggies that have got themselves a bad reputation. There seems to be something in our DNA that makes brussel sprouts cause shivers the length of our spine. Often, this occurs even when children have never tasted these vegetables.

One way to work around this is to rename those offensively named vegetables. Why not call brussel sprouts green gems? A name that isn’t as loaded with negative connotations.

After bypassing childhood prejudices, presentation and preparation will ensure these once tarnished vegetables remain a favourite part of your child’s diet.

Tip 10: Hide Them…

Let’s face it, sometimes, no matter the creative, artful methods you try to use some vegetables are just not going to be a hit.

While hiding some of the lesser liked vegetables is nothing more than subterfuge. It is a last resort that can help to slowly sneak some vegetables into you child’s diet and familiarise them with the tastes.