Stop telling your kids, “eat your veggies!”

Demanding that is ‘so last generation’!

Exasperated you might ask, “How then do I get my family eating more veggies without being a task and taste monster?”  Well, for starters, if the definition of insanity is: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, I’d recon it’s time to change the way we do things.

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Instead of instructing them, how about teaching, empowering and joining them?

After all, aren’t kids of today savvy, enlightened and capable enough to take on a lot more than “because I say so”? We need to update our own knowledge, recipes, presentation and attitudes to encourage veggie-strong meals. Then pass on the enthusiasm, knowledge and compassion to our children.

Like it or hate it, the research is undeniable; veggies reign supreme on providing our bodies with an abundance of vital phytonutrients, dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. So how best to feed your family?

Get going with my 10 veg-friendly tips:

1. Get them into the kitchen:

Begin simply by making a smoothie, veg pizza, pasta with mushroom & tomato sauce, veg sushi or their favourite soup. This gets them selecting, slicing and eating their choice of veg. Their buy-in is vital.

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2. Update your recipe repertoire :

It’s time to tap into today’s abundant veg scene. 2012 was herald ‘the year of the vegan cookbook’,  so there are ample recipes the teach you how to make delicious veg meals.  From wraps, kebabs, pita pockets, veggies burgers to sweet potato fries.  Allow kids to enjoy these awesome tastes without making a fuss about them being veg-only.

3. Let them drink:

Go online to find super smoothie recipes. Select those that use water or plant-based dairy for a truly healthy snack. If they’re resistant to veg, initially use predominantly fruit, with a touch of veg, then gradually increase the veg content, and reduce the fruit, (dark leafy greens being vital).

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4. Get munching:

Sharing your preparation time, learning new recipes, and your job is still not done. It’s time for you to also lead by example! Snack on long slices of cucumber (offer them a stick and ask them if they prefer the skin on or off). (Another way to get their buy-in). Sticks of carrots (or do they like the ‘baby’ carrots?), dipped in hummus or a red pepper dip perhaps? (Yummy and better for our waistline than the customary cookie or crisp). Diced oven baked sweet potato and carrots is another alternative to packet crisps.

5. Spices things up rather than cheese things over:

You’ll be doing your kids a disservice by drowning the veggies in high dietary cholesterol ‘foods’ like milk, yoghurt and cheese.  Learn from chefs and authors who offer 100% plant-based recipe ideas, as they know how to get the best out of veggies, using herbs, spices, oils and more.

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6. Go shopping together:

Get them to choose some of the veggies. Make it fun by suggesting that they then get to challenge you to cook them differently, nothing like you’ve done before. For instance, adding oil, syrup, raisins, pistachio nuts, garlic and caramelised onions to brussel sprouts, actually makes them tasty! (and that’s making good of a veg with a bad reputation!)

7. 24/7:

Don’t leave the beginnings of taste battles to last thing at night, when you’re all weary. Make fresh fruits and veg easily accessible during the daytime by pre-preparing them and showing kids where to find these easy-to-grab snacks.

8. Ask yourself why & let them ask too:

Know why you’re eating and encouraging veg and fruit. Let this not be a vague concept you remember and mouth-off from generation to generation. Become informed, involved and enthusiastic about the health benefits of eating whole foods.  Be honest with yourself by assessing how much you really do know about how and why different veggies can significantly boost your family’s health.

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9. Tap into their areas of interest and vanity:

Share the direct benefits to eating healthfully. For instance, maybe they’ll relate to wanting especially shiny hair, reducing their acne, growing strong nails, or need a healthy way to increase their protein for muscle-building. If you find your own knowledge lacking, then you’re the first to need thorough convincing. So get reading, learning and experimenting. Then share!

10. Make it fun for all: 

This 2-minute video illustrates how naming veg kid-friendly names and presenting it to them in kid-friendly shapes dramatically increases consumption.

Beyond knowing the benefits of feeding your family lots of healthful foods, check that your attitude reflects your desire to encourage them. It’s not a chore once you get your head, heart and shopping list well oiled to serve wholesome foods.

You’re sure to perk up some plates and palates!

9 thoughts on “Stop telling your kids, “eat your veggies!”

  1. These are great tips. I didn’t eat a whole lot of fresh veggies growing up, and I’m pretty sure it’s because my parents treated it like a chore—an inherited pattern, of course. Conversely, if you truly love your veggies (i.e., doing all of the above), your kids will follow suit!

    1. Thanks Camille. I know right – I used to almost literally pat myself on my back when I gave my family spinach twice a week – on a good week. And as a youngster I just about always had peas represent my plate’s greens. We live and learn then hopefully implement!

  2. I would love to attempt this in a smoothie (I need to smuggle some greens in). Great idea. I need a good recipe for fruits to start with, then later try smuggle in some greens that taste wont be known, until after they “love it”.

    1. It truly wasn’t until I went vegetarian that I tasted my first green smoothy. I remember being terrified. Then incredibly surprised. It’s the colour (until you just LOVE the green colour) that puts people off I think. I find my kids love it nice and cold, as frozen banana, strawberries, and/or ice is a good start. Baby spinach is a softer taste than regular sized or kale, so begin with that. Use cold water or Woolies organic soya milk for a healthful drink.

  3. These are great tips! The first tip about getting kids in the kitchen has helped in our house tremendously. It is amazing the psychological effects!

    1. I’m so pleased Luke! It can also be real fun to unite in the kitchen – as food really can be prepared with love and happiness – something kids so easily exude!

  4. For older kids, avoiding acne by eating healthier is a great motivation! I know a lot of adults that wish they had known the connection between diet and acne when younger. Could have saved a lot of frustration! 😉

    1. Hi J

      Thanks so much for your active involvement into this conversation. I so agree, kids really are entitled to this information. Which, for younger kids, only really comes if adults are open to this news.

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