The latest news from the Child Nutrition Research Center at Baylor University.
This information is provided through the courtesy of Marilyn Swanson PhD, RD USDA National Program Leader for Maternal and Child Health.
Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies - Culinary Tips Dress Up Vegetables
Vegetables can play an important role in helping control kids' weight gains while supplying important nutrients they need for growth and development. But getting kids to eat them can sometimes be a challenge.
"To get kids to eat vegetables, they must be available when and where kids tend to eat, be very easy-to-eat, and taste good," said Joan Carter, R.D., an instructor in the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a cordon-bleu-trained chef.
To make vegetables more tempting to kids, Carter offers these tips:
- Offer the new vegetable at the beginning of the meal when small children are the hungriest. Serve vegetables in new combinations. Children tend to favor peas, potatoes, carrots, beans and corn. Mix these vegetables with others they are less likely to eat, such as broccoli and cauliflower.
- Use a little fat, sugar, and salt to make the healthy foods “taste good” to kids. Cook carrots with a little sugar and chicken stock; make carrot “slaw” with raisins; top broccoli with low-fat cheese sauce; add grated vegetables like carrots or squash to home-baked muffins. “Kids are born liking sweet tastes, so use this to your advantage,” Carter said.
- Prepare vegetables in new ways. Try a stir-fry or “fortify” prepared soup with extra fresh or frozen vegetables. Mix a vegetable in with a favorite food, such as peas in macaroni and cheese or blend soft cooked carrots into mashed potatoes. Add vegetables to pizza toppings or sauté minced veggies like broccoli and red pepper and add to spaghetti and pizza sauces, meat loaf, and pureed soups. Make oven-baked sweet potato fries or bake this high-fiber, vitamin-A rich alternative to white potatoes with a touch of sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
- Make eating veggies fun and easy. For kids over the age of 4, keep veggie kabobs with cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices, or a grab bag with baby carrots, broccoli “trees,” and celery sticks near low-fat dips or salsa on a child-level shelf in the refrigerator. Use cut-up pieces of vegetables to make a "smiley face" on mashed potatoes. Offer an edible spoon, such as a stalk of celery, to scoop up chili or stew.
- Enlist kids to help scour magazines for new veggie recipes that the family could try. Engage kids in an "ingredient-list scavenger hunt" at the grocery store and later let them assist in preparing the new recipe at home.
- Become a family of Farmers' Market “explorers” who stop and ask growers about their produce, their farms, and how they cook their vegetables for themselves. Grow a family vegetable garden.
Be a good role model. Eat your vegetables, and show you excitement about finding and trying new ones.
But, what if despite your best efforts, your children still turn up their noses at anything yellow, green or leafy?
"Don't give up," Carter said. Young children tend to be “neophobic,” which literally means they are afraid of new foods. "It may take some time before kids try a vegetable and it might take a lot of tries before they begin to like it," she said.
Carter's advice: Continue to offer vegetables at each meal and encourage children to try one bite. If they don't like it, that's fine. Allowing young kids to stop at one bite can make trying new foods less scary, while forcing them to eat something they truly don't like will only make the situation worse.