The end of summer is such a great time for fresh vegetables! You have probably heard that the best way to get children to eat a vegetable is to teach them to grow it. It’s true. There is a magic that happens when your children invest in the food that they eat. If you garden, then hopefully your hard work is paying off. But even if you don’t garden, fresh vegetables are available at local farm stands and farmer’s markets. Getting as close to the growing process as possible and eating fresh makes meal time more meaningful. Some local farms may even be open to having your family come and “help harvest” or take a farm tour. Fresh veggies are much tastier and often have a different texture than canned or frozen vegetables. Eating fresh vegetables is a good way to get more of the rainbow into your children’s diet.
Your attitude makes a difference
The first thing that will make veggie-eating easier for children is seeing parents with good attitudes toward vegetables. So start by serving vegetables that you enjoy! Your enjoyment will influence your children’s attitudes, perhaps not immediately, but definitely over time.
As you branch out and experiment with new vegetables, show your enthusiasm and willingness to try them. If you don’t like them the first time, let your kids know that, but also let them see you being positive and being willing to try again. This encourages them to also be positive and to be willing to keep trying.
How you prepare fresh vegetables
Believe it or not, how we prepare and serve the vegetables is just as important as how they taste. And there are so many ways we can vary this and experiment with it!
The way you slice raw veggies can actually affect their taste. Freshly cut carrot sticks taste so much better than packaged baby carrots. And thin carrot sticks are more palatable to children than thick ones. My kids have asked why our carrots taste better than anyone else’s. Super skinny carrot sticks – trust me on this one!
Try cucumber sticks and then cucumber slices and see which your children enjoy more. This applies to celery too – cross slices are easier to handle than stringy sticks.
So try different ways of slicing raw veggies, different thicknesses and shapes, and see if you and your kids enjoy them more.
Steaming, sauteeing, roasting…there are so many ways to cook vegetables and just as many different recipes and ways of seasoning them. Look up some recipes and methods and see what sounds good to you.
If you really don’t know what to do with your fresh veggies, roasting them is always going to be wonderful. Vegetables that none of us like when prepared other ways will taste so much better when roasted.
Just yesterday, I gathered some cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, carrots, and butternut squash – all items that really needed to be used before they went bad – chopped them up and laid them on some baking sheets, tossed them with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roasted them early in the day before it got too hot to use the oven. While they cooled on the stovetop, each of my children walked by at different times stating how good they smelled and looked. When I reheated them for dinner that night, those vegetables were the first thing my kids ate, even the peppers, and most of them do not usually like peppers. Who knew you could entice kids by roasting vegetables and tempting them with them all day!
And if you cook together with your kids, you can use the signs for cook and then for eat!
Have fun with how you serve fresh vegetables
Young children can be convinced to eat vegetables if we make it fun in some way. My son loved to eat broccoli because we each pretended to be a brontosaurus eating a tree. Sometimes we’d be giraffes instead. He liked peas because he got to play with and then eat little balls. So see if you can find a way to play with your vegetables and make it fun for your little ones.
You could also use your vegetables to create a picture or scene, and then eat the scene. Your creations don’t have to be complicated, and they don’t have to be all vegetables. The campfire scene above is a variety of foods, and the tiny carrot sticks are part of the flames. We’ve also made forests and flowers with our vegetables. Having fun with veggies removes some of the yuck factor our kids struggle with.
Another fun way to eat vegetables is to try to eat every color of the rainbow. This includes fruits too, but that’s OK. A mix of fruits and vegetables still gets some vegetables into your kids. Check out our fun video about eating a rainbow below!
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How is your family going to have fun with vegetables? Let us know!