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How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables: Cooking for Success

Let us help you think outside the box when it comes to cooking for young children.

  • Think variety! A variety of plant foods offered in a variety of ways will keep things interesting and give your children more options from which to choose, increasing your likelihood of success. If you keep offering the same few vegetables over and over, you may not get to know if your child could develop a liking for other vegetables. Further to this, no one food offers the complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals that we require. At times, we may unconsciously assume our children would not like a healthy food item because we don't. In not offering these foods to our children, we deny them the opportunity to benefit from them. Limiting our children to the foods that we like also reduces our chances of success in getting them to eat a healthy diet. Encourage them to experience the world of fruits and vegetables without bias and they may surprise and surpass you on the road to a healthy diet. 


  • Reformulate the wheel: Add vegetables to dishes that your children already love. Most leafy greens wilt and reduce when cooked and can become almost undetectable, often adding flavour. If your children are particularly offended by colour, add just a sprinkling at first, perhaps a bit of chopped chives so that they can become used to the specks of colour. Then increase and increase. Soon they will be accustomed to the kaleidoscope of colour. 

    • Zucchini or baby marrows are quite absent of flavour and do not usually affect the outcome of your usual recipes when added on. 

    • Swap out potatoes for sweet potatoes in curries and stews to add a fibre and nutrient boost to your dish. 

    • Choose cauliflower when you need to avoid colour. 

    • Add celery at the beginning of your recipe to add flavour.

    • Butternut melts into most curries and stews to add richness to the gravy.


  • Camouflage: Mask stronger tasting vegetables by mixing it with a mild-tasting starch such as rice, potatoes, pap (a South African ground corn preparation), couscous or your baby's cereal. The starch will also help provide the necessary calories. 


  • Focus on Plants: It helps to omit the meat component of a meal (on some days at least), so that children will focus on the plant foods, without being distracted by the often more desirable meat component. This will also allow you to put more time and effort into preparing and flavouring the plant foods. Fortunately, many plant foods contain significant protein, especially legumes, whole-grains, nuts, and seeds. Removing animal products, at least most of the time, is what made the biggest difference with my youngest child's relationship with plant foods.


  • Try Raw: At times, children prefer raw vegetables to cooked vegetables. Raw vegetables are higher in protein and contain enzymes which catalyse bodily processes. It's certainly not all the time that you need to be creative and imaginative when it comes to food, sometimes all you need is a carrot (and maybe a peeler if you're feeling fancy). Other easy raw add-ons are cucumber, or some cherry tomatoes, or (soaked) raw corn on the cob, chopped bell peppers or micro-greens. This is one of those few times in life that the easier way is the better way. 


  • Incognito Vegetables: There are many sneaky ways of hiding vegetables into foods such as by blending, mashing, or grating into baked goods, stews, pizzas, mince braises, pastas, soups etc.. See the recipe section for ideas.


  • Try a different variant: Several fruits and vegetables have different varieties, for example, there are many types of apples or squash. Your child may despise one type but adore another. You can also try organically produced vegetables which are often sweeter. Remember that quality and freshness are variable, and do impact the taste and texture. Buying fresher or better quality fruits and vegetables could make all the difference. 


  • Break-it-down: If you have a child who has already developed an aversion for the texture of vegetables - do not despair. There are ways of preparing vegetables that can remove the "texture factor" so that you can first focus on getting your child used to the taste of vegetables. Try making vegetable mash or blending soups, smoothies, sauces, and dips where your child does not have to chew the vegetables (recipes can be found in the recipe section). After your child has established a taste for vegetables, then do start re-introducing texture gradually - texture is important for speech development.


  • Cereal success: To introduce new foods to a baby, try mixing it into his cereal. This could be for both sweet  or savoury foods.


  • Sprout for your sprout: Soak or sprout legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds so that what little your child eats is providing optimal nutritional benefit. The small portion of sprouted foods will, on many counts, be nutritionally equivalent to a larger portion of un-sprouted food. See information on how to soak and sprout and more details on the benefits of doing so here.

Written by Natasha Subbiah

Happiness Through Spirituality

When you need to make sense of your world and how you fit into it, when your happiness becomes your priority, Unity Mama can assist you with a philosophy that stitches together the pieces of the puzzle, from several major religions of our world - to map the highest path to the highest goal - happiness!

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