"Eat Your Veggies!" : Easily Incorporating Vegetables Into Your Child's Meal
We strive to continue supporting our patients beyond their fertility journey and into parenthood. One of our resources for this support is our on-staff parenting coach Tiffany Paul. This was originally published on her website yourfamilyhappier.com, reposted here with permission.
A big part of our holistic approach to wellness includes diet and nutrition. We know that our patients take this seriously and are working to make positive, healthy choices around their food, but something that we don't talk about as much is getting the whole family on board. Someone recently asked Tiff, our resident Holistic Parenting Coach, about how to get more veggies in their little one. Here are some thoughts about how to approach it all (might also be helpful for those patients who are having a hard time including more vegetables!):
Q. My four year old son is generally pretty agreeable at mealtime. He's relatively well mannered and willing to try just about any food. The only thing is, he just doesn't eat very many vegetables. He loves meat of all kinds, is ravenous with pasta, bread, and fruit. I know it’s kind of stereo-typical, but I want him to grow to love nutritious food and of course am concerned about his health. How can I get more vegetables into him with out a big fight?'
A. Thanks so much for writing! It’s an age-old problem, isn’t it? Like all the children get together and sign a pact to boycott vegetables! It can be such a stressor for us moms. It’s wonderful that you’re focusing on your son’s health and want to approach it without a big struggle. Sounds like things are going well for the most part, so here are my top tips for getting more vegetables into your kiddos:
- Add vegetables to the foods they already like. Put spinach and kale in everything. EVERYTHING. Leafy greens are tough for little ones to eat raw, but if you put a whole bunch of kale (remove the stalks and stems first!) and several big handfuls of spinach into your blender at the beginning of the week, you can store the finely chopped greens in a plastic bag in the fridge for easy access all week. That way it’s so simple to scoop some into your spaghetti, eggs, stir-fry or soups. The kids don’t notice a difference and it instantly ups the nutrients in any dish. Spread avocado on their sandwiches. You can put a large quarter of the fruit (did you know it’s a fruit?!) into a sandwich without any trouble or mix it into mac and cheese. Grated carrots give a nice crunch to any type of taco and beets make a delicious smoothie with blueberries and plain yogurt. The goal is not to sneak here, but to help them see that vegetables are a normal, yummy part of life. Including them with familiar, preferred foods makes it a simple transition.
- Give the kids their veggies while you’re cooking the rest of the dinner. This works a treat at my house. I cut up raw veg and serve it with hummus, or sauté something quickly before I start the rest of the meal. That way, the super healthy food gets devoured while their appetites are peaked and they eat more of them.
- Get them involved. If you can, start a little garden. There are so, so many reasons to garden with your children, but here I’m thinking about how, when children watch something grow from a tiny seed into a big, beautiful cucumber, they are more likely to be excited to eat it. The anticipation of waiting for just the right moment to pluck something from the vine gives it a certain kind of magic! You can also give them a choice of what vegetables you will cook and ask for their help preparing them. With a little training, a three year old can peel carrots and cucumbers, shuck corn, or wash all the vegetables in the sink. Including them in the process gives them ownership over the meal and will help create enthusiastic, adventurous eaters.
- Cook vegetables well. I thought I hated vegetables until I was an adult because growing up, we had canned green beans boiled in bottled Italian dressing! EW! Once I learned how to move beyond boiling/steaming, a whole new world of delicious opened up to me. My children and I LOVE roasted vegetables, kale sautéed in olive oil and garlic, carrot soup, and tomatoes with basil and mozzarella.
- Don’t force it. I am definitely not of the ‘clean your plate’ persuasion. Anytime you try to control what a child does with their body, you are fighting a losing battle. They decide what goes in. It’s your job to provide nutritious options for them and help teach them about why it’s important to make healthy choices for our bodies. Don’t get fussed about it if they don’t want to eat and don’t play into a power struggle about it. Just shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Okay. Maybe next time.’ Be patient and keep trying.