10 Ways to Encourage Kids to Eat Their Veggies
by Dr. John Lee
Children can learn to love vegetables.
With seven young grandchildren I understand first-hand how difficult it can be to keep kids away from the soda pop and candy and eating their veggies. However, vegetables are the mainstay of a healthy diet, even for kids. With a bit of creativity and consistency, you can integrate vegetables into your children’s daily routine. Here are some suggestions:
- Plant a vegetable garden with your kids and eat the harvest. They’ll love the idea of munching on a carrot that they’ve grown. Even a very small vegetable garden can greatly increase a child’s enthusiasm for eating veggies.
- Before you start dinner, make a plate of carrot, cucumber and zucchini sticks and put it out where hungry kids can munch on them. You’ll be amazed at how enthusiastically they’ll scarf up the veggies when they’re hungry and waiting for dinner. (You can also try jicama, tomato wedges, red bell peppers, sugar snap peas, green beans and steamed broccoli.)
- Don’t be afraid to use butter or salad dressings on the vegetables. Broccoli and peas will usually go down a lot easier with butter, and many kids like the creamy salad dressings (please use salad dressings without hydrogenated oils, dyes, sugar and a lot of preservatives). You can also try olive oil and seasoned salts (make sure they don’t contain MSG).
- Don’t be afraid of salt. Most kids don’t like heavily salted food, but a little bit can really help make vegetables more palatable.
- Make sure your kids know why you want them to eat their vegetables. This may sound simplistic, but it’s amazing how many parents simply demand that their kids eat vegetables without explaining why. Explain to them what phytochemicals are, how they can only get them in a fresh carrot or celery stick, and how they will be healthier and stronger when they eat their veggies.
- Don’t routinely keep sweets in the house or you and your kids will routinely eat them. I remember a study from Yale in which they observed kids who wouldn’t eat good nutritional foods. They found that those were the homes with lots of cookies and candy around, and the kids would ignore the food at the dinner table and seek out the sweet stuff when nobody was watching them. Kids who didn’t routinely have sweets in the home were generally hungry enough to eat what was served and enjoy it.
- Remember that most children under the age of 7 or 8 have simple tastes, they tend to like simple foods, and can be very picky about consistency. Don’t expect mushrooms or okra to go over big! Most smaller kids will prefer a plain raw carrot stick over one that’s cooked.
- Keep portions small. If your child will only eat three mouthfuls of peas and one carrot stick, that’s just fine. They don’t need large portions of vegetables.
- It’s fine to bargain. Four bites of spinach in exchange for dessert. Just try to keep desserts as healthy as possible: fruit is the best. Avoid getting into the habit of having sugary desserts such as ice cream, cookies or pie every night. That’s a set-up for sugar cravings and obesity.
- Make sure that your children get plenty of exercise every day. Kids who watch TV or play video games after school won’t have as good an appetite as those who are physically active.
Note to Reader from Virginia Hopkins
Dr. John Lee was my great friend, mentor, co-author and business partner. This website is dedicated to continuing the work that Dr. Lee and I did together to educate and inform women and men about natural hormones, hormone balance and achieving optimal health. Dr. John Lee was a courageous pioneer who changed the face of medicine by introducing the concepts of natural progesterone, estrogen dominance and hormone balance to a large audience of women and men seeking answers to their hormone questions. Dr. Lee has left us a wonderful collection of writings from his newsletters that are, in large part, freely shared on this website. Enjoy!