Here is a better strategy: Disclose what is on their plate and lead by example
Don’t trick kids. They are smarter than you think anyway
You are an adult. On top of that, you are a parent. You are able to take appropriate decisions regarding yourself, your family and your kids – whatever these decisions are.
But if you are here and want our opinion about hiding veggies and tricking your kids into eating them without knowing, here it is: Not a good idea.
Lies beget more lies. Don’t hide veggies. Just come clean: These are veggies and they are delicious!
Who wants to be tricked?
Kids want to be treated like grown-ups that can be trusted with decisions. And this is true at the dinner table too.
Veggies everywhere, for everyone!
As parents of young eaters, your job is to expose them to a variety of healthy food (remember the golden rule?) so that they grow wanting to discover, taste and eat with appetite and pleasure.
If you start hiding foods and lying about what you’re serving, it’s not reaching the desired effect. By all means, go and incorporate avocado in chocolate pudding, zuccini in bread, and beets in a cake… but disclose it to your child and explain to them how food is versatile and tasty in oh-so many ways! This way, they taste the versatility of food and ingredients.
What is more cool for a child than beets in a cake? Or pineapple on a pizza? Versatility of food will inspire new recipes.
So how do you do this? It’s not a magic trick.
- Eat your own veggies
That is right…this is not time for the good old “Do as I say, not as I do”. Kids learn by mimicking. And your are their favorite person to imitate. Beyond that, they trust your judgment. If you eat something (with pleasure that is!), it indicates that it is safe and normal to eat. Serve yourself vegetables at all meals (see our healthy plate) even if somedays you eat only one bite… even if some days you eat only vegetables because they are so darn good! That is the behavior you want to encourage.
- Select different vegetables and cook them in various ways
Novelty is intriguing. On the opposite, even the favorite food served everyday will become boring and unappetizing. So mix it up! Pick new vegetables at the grocery store, google how to cook it up and get inspired to try new veggies cooked in new ways. Rotate in the mix some of your family’s favorite veggies, as well as ones that you aren’t fans of. Kids need repeated exposure to food items to get familiar, tempted to try it out, and finally becoming a fan. And we mean exposed 10-20 times…Patience and persistence are your friends!
- Let kids select some vegetables they want to include in the weekly menu
Because being in charge is cool. Being trusted to pick THE vegetables that will go with Monday’s dinner is a big responsibility and show your kids that they can contribute to the grown-up decisions. So ask them what they want to buy, show them flyers or recipe books and let them point out the lucky veggies that inspire them this week (and if you are adventurous this week, bring them to the grocery store with you!). Unless they choose something out of this world, roll with it. Encourage their decision, praise their initiative and tell them how it is going to be yummy. This isn’t the time to discourage them, tell them it won’t taste good or it won’t match well with the meal or that really we should buy Brussels sprouts instead. Keep your comments for yourself (maybe they think the same about the veggies you chose for the others meals of the week!)
- Offer 2 veggies at each meal
that gives everyone the chance to eat at least one veggie they like. Granted, it is more work, but if you do meal prep, you can plan for it and cook for it. Instead of serving all the broccoli on Monday and all the Swiss chard on Tuesday, you offer both on both days. It could also be some crudités you have in the fridge served as an appetizer or in the middle of the table while food is being prepared. The idea is that variety brings choice.
- Do not force them to eat (anything). Put it on their plate. Let it go. Repeat.
You read this correctly. Once the meal is on the table, your job is done. But the hardest is to come. Don’t comment on the What, How and If. Don’t ask them to eat one more bite, or to finish to their veggies please… nope. Concentrate on your plate. Let it all go. It will be more enjoyable for you, for them, for everyone.
Oh, and everyone gets to eat dessert. Even if they haven’t touched their veggies.
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