There is nothing more satisfying or heart-warming than discovering your child in the vegie patch munching enthusiastically on something fresh, super healthy and delicious (unless of course it’s your prize winning crop of strawberries that you were saving for the top of your Sunday pav!)
Current research clearly shows the importance of children being involved with what they’re growing. My children seem to be about 400% more likely to eat vegies they have grown themselves!
In my case, having a daughter with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) has increased the issues of insuring a healthy diet. But by growing our own vegies, her range of healthy food options increases with each new crop.
Healthy early eating patterns stick with your kids for life, so exposure to as many new tastes early on the better. We know that families that eat together have healthier eating habits, but did you also know that it’s been proven that kids will eat more vegies when the meal is served with water? (As opposed to juice or soft drink), apparently this allows the taste of the vegetables to seem sweeter. Research also shows that children are more likely to eat a larger serving of vegies if the produce is cut into bite sized pieces. Some sensitive children may need to ‘try’ or be exposed to a new food more than 10 times to finally develop a taste for it, so get planting and keep persevering!
TOP TIPS for encouraging your kids to eat more vegies:
1. Encourage your child to maintain their own vegie garden. Let them choose some of the plants included, but try and sneak in a few they wouldn’t normally think of trying! (Hopefully watching the vegies grow will familiarise them with the new taste sensations and make them feel more favourable towards it!
2. Involve them in the ongoing maintenance and care of their garden – you might want to consider letting them try some of their produce earlier than usual (e.g. even the most reluctant carrot eater will try a tiny, sweet and tender baby carrot).
3. Allow them to try the fruit/vegies raw (if appropriate). Some things like sweetcorn, peas and cabbage are delicious straight from the garden and may be preferred raw to cooked. Personally, I love raw broccoli!
4. Explore a variety of recipes that can include their crops – salads, frittatas, omelettes, soups, smoothies, pizza toppings, taco fillings and savoury muffins are all great suggestions (and when in doubt, grate it up and slip it into some spaghetti bolognaise sauce!) Getting them involved with the cooking process (and tasting as you go) is a fun way to encourage them to broaden their meal range.
5. Encourage your child to share their harvest (and show off their produce) with other likeminded and enthusiastic gardeners – often seeing someone else happily gobbling up their prized harvest is enough to prompt them into trying it!
We would love to hear about your tips for encouraging children to eat more vegies.