Eat the Rainbow!

How to Get Your Kids to Try New Vegetables

A challenge for some, but a breeze for others. Getting your kids to eat healthy, wholesome, home-made food is the goal of every parent, but the reality is that more times than you care to admit, your child simply refuses to taste the plate of love you have placed in front of them. What gives?

At a young age, children are biologically drawn to foods with high energy content to help fuel their own energy needs. Vegetables aren’t statistically high in calories, and paired with their large amounts of indigestible fibre, digesting them can use almost as much energy as they provide kids!

Although this explains a LOT, it certainly does not indicate why some children love veggies and others do not. And unfortunately, this comes down to the nurture part…

Vegetables are not linked to eating enjoyment. Although times are changing, and kids birthday parties often feature crudites and hummus, cakes, candy, sodas, and ice-cream still abound plenty! As mums, many of us try to offset these types of sugar-rushes with healthy snacks, but we may be jeopardizing our good efforts by telling kids to eat their vegetables for health reasons (spinach makes you strong, carrots let you see in the dark, eating your crusts will give you curly hair… ), and unfortunately most kids do not value good health yet – they value yumminess and instant gratification 🙂

What’s a mum to do?

The solution lies in taking a more passive approach – no excessive praising when your child finishes their veggies, no nagging to try something new, and definitely no bribing with dessert! And believe you me, this is tough, even for some of the “good” mums out there!

Studies have shown that children eat more raw vegetables when they are paired with a favourite dip (try making your own to avoid nasty additives and excess sugar). The familiarity of the dip increases the child’s trust and can make the new food seem less scary. Dips can also help mask some of the bitterness associated with veggies, which is often the chief complaint from kids.

Additionally, when you are serving your child something (veggie or otherwise), always make sure that it is paired with other foods that they know and love. For example, if you would like to introduce broccoli, make sure it is the only new thing on their plate alongside a firm favourite like mac n ’cheese – this way they will be far more willing to give it a try!

We’ve also found that kids value appearances just as much as adults, and tend to eat with their eyes first. Veggies that are artfully arranged and have bright, beautiful colours are immediately attractive and excite kids (ever wondered why colourful candy is so appealing?). If you make the vegetable presentation appetizing to your children and get them involved in the preparation, you might be more likely to naturally gain their acceptance in eating a plate of fresh vegetables (extra points if you can get them involved with growing veggies too!).

The key to getting kids to eat new foods is patience and persistence. Keep offering up your heart on a plate, mamas – you’ve got this!

fruit rainbow

Making rainbows

Taking into account this wealth of new information, we love the idea of creating a fruit and veggie rainbow!

  1. Grab the kids and let them help you pick out the fresh produce to make a rainbow using a combination of new and familiar foods.
  2. While you cut it up, let them arrange the fruit and veg on a large platter – you can even turn this into a learning experience to discuss colours, weather, or farming, depending on their age and interests.
  3. Once you have a beautiful rainbow, grab you dip and use it to make the fluffy cloud at the end, and let the kids tuck in and enjoy. And don’t forget to Instagram it and tag us (@mealmonsters)!

Here are some ideas for your rainbow:

Red: halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red bell peppers, strawberries, or diced red apple.
Orange: baby carrots, sliced orange bell peppers, roasted butternut, peeled mandarins, or diced baked sweet potato.
Yellow: corn off the cobb, toasted chickpeas, pineapple, or sliced yellow bell pepper (these are mighty versatile fruits and come in almost any colour!).
Green: sliced cucumber, diced avocado, lettuce, kale chips, sugar snaps, steamed broccoli, and yes you guessed it, sliced green bell peppers 🙂
Blue/purple: shredded red cabbage, beetroot, blueberries, or sliced purple bell peppers (yes they come in purple too, and they look magnificent in a salad).

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