Anyone who knows my family well enough knows that my children like vegetables. Don’t misunderstand me, my oldest would eats pounds of white pasta if allowed however that doesn’t mean he won’t eat a big helping of salad.
And the questions I get asked most often, “How do you get your children to eat that? How do you get your children to like that??”
I had to honestly look back and figure out how did we get our children to like vegetables? There are a few things that have stood out and I’d like to share them with you.
We always feed our children what we eat
I knew from the start that I would be making our own baby food for our children. When the time came, I found it a lot easier to just mash up what we were already eating. (Not salad, that’s gross) But, veggies and meats were mashed and thinned with bone broth and good healthy fats. Sea salt was sprinkled on top as well.
As adults we like food that tastes good, so do children! Add the fats, it’s good for their developing brains. Add the sea salt, it provides minerals for their growing bodies.
We give them a variety of tastes
Sweet, sour, bitter, savoury, we need all of those in our diet. Too often babies and toddlers are given more of the sweet and savoury, not enough of the bitter and sour. When children are exposed to those flavours early on, even if they don’t like them, their palates become used to them.
Sour is usually provided in the form of fermented vegetables. Bitter coming from herbal teas and greens.
We make them a part of their food
From how it grows and gets to your table, make your children a part of the process. Grow a garden if you can (if you can’t grow a garden try a few plants in pots or take frequent trips to farmer’s markets). Let them pick out food to try. Let them help you cook it!
Making cooking fun and exciting makes trying food fun and exciting. The pride on the face of a toddler who helped harvest, prepare and serve foods is awesome! They love having ‘real’ jobs and being a real help to you.
We never say “You may not like this”
When we introduce a new food or something that we know might not be a favourite, we never start out by saying, “You don’t have to eat this if you don’t like it.” Once the child hears that then they are set up to know they may not like it.
It’s hard, however it is important for them to form their own, unbiased opinion.
We had liver for the first time in quite awhile last week. My oldest was excited to try it. He sat down at the table expecting to like it. (I never once said that I don’t like it) He ate two big pieces of it and said, “I don’t think I like this.”
Yahoo! He didn’t take a tiny taste and spit it out and get upset. He was willingly giving it a good try without any prompting from me. I couldn’t have been more excited.
We retry food that they haven’t liked
We don’t talk about food that we don’t like or haven’t liked. Kid’s palates change so much that we always encourage trying food over again. My son LOVED beans when he was little. Then he went through a stage where he didn’t like them. During that time, when we would have beans, he was always expected to try a bite again. He is now eating beans like a champ and even asking for them again.
We pay attention to food that they don’t want to eat
My children are not picky eaters so when they won’t eat something, I don’t press it. children can have a keen sense for what is good for them and what isn’t. My oldest son gave up milk for a few years. I had often suspected a dairy allergy so when he told me he didn’t like milk any more, I believed him.
My children watch us eat food we don’t like
Yes, I do not like beets or mushrooms, however I serve both on a regular basis in my home…and I eat them. My children know this. They also know that other people that live in the house do like them. My children never fail to thank me when I cook with mushrooms because they know I don’t like them, however I do like cooking them for them!
While there is no sure fire why to get your children to like vegetables, giving them the chance to explore the world of food is a great way to get their foot in the door.
It’s so important to give them a good, healthy start in life. Not only does it involve the food choices however it involves the habits. The habit of trying food is one they will carry with them.