Eat your veg kids!
What’s the veg situation like in your house? Are you a family who loves to eat greens and effortlessly meets the recommended 5 portions a day? Or perhaps you’re at the other end of the spectrum with a houseful of fussy eaters that make mealtimes a daily challenge...
Fact is, kids can take a while to get to grips with veg. But with some careful meal planning, gentle encouragement (and a whole host of vegetable trickery!) you can get more great nutrition into their young bods.
1) Start them young
Like skiing, riding a bike and learning to read, starting young is key to embracing a long-term love of veg. According to nutritionist, Ruth Tongue it’s important to “introduce lots of varieties of vegetables to kids from an early age to encourage them to explore new tastes and textures.”
Children will try most vegetables from weaning age but when they hit 3, they might start to become a little pickier. This is the time to switch things up and try new veggie recipes that will bring something new to their tastebuds. But the over-arching message is this: Start young, and they’ll be less likely to have an aversion to veg later.
2) Lead by example
“Children learn by observing their parents or carers so if you experiment with - and enjoy nutritious food - chances are they will follow suit”, says Ruth.
“It’s best to avoid labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and whilst it’s tempting to try and persuade them to finish their veggies so they can get to dessert (we’ve all been there!), this can lead kids to believe that dessert is the best bit and veggies the worst.”
3) Involve the kids in cooking
“Something I’ve observed numerous times from working with cookery clubs and schools is that if little ones get involved in cooking, they’ll be 100 times more likely to want to eat the meals”, says Ruth.
Involve them in the weekly meal plan then get practical with some hands-on jobs! Try sitting them down with a child-friendly peeler and let them prep the root veg or let them loose with Riced Cauliflower – opening the pouches, adding them to a pan or mixing them into a baked dish to go in the oven.
4) Make veggie dishes fun!
From cheesy riced broccoli and gnocchi to hash browns, flapjacks and spaghetti Bolognese, there’s a multitude of ways to make veggies fun!
Kids love bright and colourful food so things like smiley face pizza toppings and traffic light veggie kebabs are a guaranteed win. Adding in familiar flavors like Italian seasoning and cheese can often get new dishes across the line with picky eaters too.
5) Embrace vegetable trickery and hide them
Visible veg sending the kids into a spin? Hide them instead! Ruth suggests adding less flavoursome vegetables to smoothies: “A handful of cooked sweet potato gives banana smoothies a delicious creamy texture whilst avocado can add a great boost of healthy fats and creaminess. Children generally enjoy smoothies so it’s a great way to get some extra nutrients in without them noticing.”
6) Add veg to bakes
Vegetables in sweet and savoury baked dishes work a treat and largely go unnoticed by kids. Our Sweet Potato & Blueberry Flapjack Bars, Breakfast Muffins and Brownies are a guaranteed family hit or follow Ruth’s lead and try a carrot & banana loaf or beetroot chocolate cake. Veg is so versatile, the best advice is to play around with it and see what you can come up with.
7) Add a dip
Homemade hummus, guacamole, Greek yoghurt, peanut butter – all of these things make tasty accompaniments for kids to dip their veggies into. Try our recipe for Caramelised Onion Hummus and watch them dive on in!
8) Snacks count
Afternoon smoothies, sweet potato biscuits, veg cut into fun shapes…. small and often is a great way to enjoy veg and snack times are where it’s at for a nutritious re-fuel.
9) Keep experimenting
Steamed broccoli causing havoc at the dinner table? Shake things up a bit and cook it in a different way – adding it to a cheesy pasta, an oven baked crumble or cheesy riced cauliflower & broccoli bake.
Bold statements confirming aversion to certain vegetables might just mean digging a bit deeper creatively or turning to the google recipe vault for a stash of new ideas. Most parents will attest that a bit of experimentation + some sneaky hidden veg trickery is a winning combo.
10) Educate & involve
Teaching kids about where our veggies come from can create a natural inquisitiveness around food. If time permits - try growing veg in your back garden or visit the local farmers market to pick up some fresh vegetables that you can cook together. For busier days, let them open a pouch of Fullgreen and add it to the pan for dinner. They’ll love the sense of achievement they feel when the plates go onto the table.