Kids and veggies

My mom sent me the results of a recent food survey conducted in New Zealand where 500 moms were asked about their children’s eating habits.  Perhaps not surprisingly to any parent, 85% of moms said they had at some stage experience fussiness from their kids at meal times (we’re all nodding, right?).

The survey went onto strategies used to get healthier food into their kids:

  •  Hiding/disguising food – 57%
  • Using sauces – 51%
  • Bribing with treats – 39%
  • Making food into shapes – 32%
  • Withholding treats – 31%
  • Sticker or rewards charts – 26%
  • Making threats – 22%

Whatever works for other parents is cool with me.  This parenting gig isn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be, but I’m not sure that hiding veggies or covering them with BBQ or cheese sauce is really giving the right message.  Neither am I convinced that bribes are great in this situation either (and I admit that I sometimes use yoghurt or fruit after dinner as encouragement, a.k.a a bribe, for making a bit more effort on the main).  We all do what we can do, right?  But I thought I’d share my top strategies that (for the most part) have worked for encouraging my kids to be good veggie eaters.


Ana making salads for herself and Rafa.

  1. Eat healthily yourself.  I’m convinced this is the most important thing you can do.  We all know how much our kids like to imitate us.
  2. Always include veggies at every lunch and dinner.  Even if it’s not a huge serving and some of it goes uneaten, always have them as an option.  The idea?  That veggies are the norm at meal time.
  3. Keep kid friendly, quick and easy veggie options in the house.  Those little snack packs of carrots and sugar snap peas are great.  Our freezer always has a couple of packs of back up veggies too.  Frozen peas, broccoli, beans and corn are always on hand.  Even on lazy dinner nights it’s easy to put some kind of veggies on their plate.
  4. Keep the veggie thing battle free.  If they don’t eat all their veggies that’s ok.  I do encourage at least a couple of bites so they have some, and can develop a taste for healthy food but I don’t expect them to love everything I make or feel like they have to eat everything on their plate.  If they are having some at every meal then that’s great.
  5. Start early.  If veggies have been a key part of their diet since they started solids again that’s what is expected.
  6. Your kid isn’t going to starve.  This was big in my house when we were growing up and some nights we may have not eaten much but we knew that if we refused what was put in front of us we weren’t going to get what we wanted later.
  7. Educate your kids on different kinds of veggies and talk about them positively.
  8. Involve them.  I’d love to have a veggie garden but at the moment that’s not practical for us.  We do have a cherry and an apple tree though which is a huge source of family fun.  The kids also help buy and prepare veggies.
  9. Food isn’t “good” or “bad” it’s just food we eat regularly and food we eat on special occasions.  I’m not going to tell my daughter who is delighting in her ice cream vacation treat that it’s “bad”.  How can something that tastes so good to her be bad?  But she does know it’s a vacation treat and I think that’s the important lesson.
  10. Remember you’re the mom.  Until the kids are old enough to buy their own food what they eat is on you.  They may whine a little now but they’ll have much more to whine about if they end up to be unhealthy adults.
Rafa enjoying cauliflower "rice"

Rafa enjoying cauliflower “rice”

I’m interested to know from other moms, what works for you?  Or can you remember a good strategy that got you to eat veggies when you were a kid?

The study was conducted by Anchor CalciYum and was reported in Waikato Times.

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3 Responses to Kids and veggies

  1. Kiwicommunicator says:

    Love your practical attitude and approach. What turned my biggest non-vege enthusiast offspring around? Falling in love with a woman and eating what she cooked in order to be polite. He suddenly found veges weren’t so bad after all. It’s a lonnng wait for this moment!

  2. Setting an example, having healthy food choices at home and having my little one help prepare meals has encouraged good habits.

  3. I have fed our kids loads of veges from day one. I don’t believe in hiding or disguising food because they still don’t learn to eat it. Gardening with them is a great tool. As is going to markets and sharing the excitement when certain fruits or veges come back into season. Trying the veges together and experimenting together. I offer hommus or pesto for dipping. If they really are adverse to something I will re offer it periodically but don’t force the issue. They say children can refuse something up to 20 times before they like it. Something massive like that. I also offer veges cooked and in raw forms. I very rarely cook the crap out of something as was often the case when we were kids. Steamed or sauteed or roasted. Never boiled to mush.

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