I have had a few comments on my Instagram feed lately about “working my magic” on our client’s kids, to get them to eat vegetables like mine do. I do not consider myself an expert, and how we got both Evie and Maia to eat veges was quite different. However I thought since I have had some success and the question is now out there, I would offer my story to see if it helps any of you.
When Evie started eating food, we didn’t eat with her. We only offered her one thing (like mashed pumpkin) and there was no alternative. If she didn’t eat, she didn’t eat. This never changed as she grew up, and to this day there is no dessert, no alternative, and no problem if she chooses not to eat. If she eats everything on her plate, we will give her more food if she professes to be hungry, but she does not get to choose it, and the sweetest thing we will offer is fruit.
Maia was a different kettle of fish. She has always been very driven and assertive, fussy about what she eats, with no qualms about spitting it out if she doesn’t like it! We followed the same process as above, but she was eating very little. The solution to this came from tapping into Maia’s competitive streak. We know that the way to get Maia to do something is to do it ourselves; she is always racing Evie to the toilet to get on first. I started eating with the kids for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I like to eat a whole grain, whole food diet, and sure enough Maia wanted what was on my plate. She would have a vegemite sandwich in front of her, but would eat my brown rice, chicken, kale and chick pea salad instead. I also found it helpful to be reluctant to share, because that made her want it more. If she spat or threw the food then I wouldn’t share with her anymore, and she felt like she was missing out. In this way, Maia eats foods that Evie won’t eat, including Kombutcha, kale, and fish fillets. Having said that, Evie also eats foods that Maia still won’t touch, like tomato and cucumber.
While I always put the same food on their plates, I do skew the volume so that they have more of what they like and less of what they don’t like. I like them to taste everything, but they don’t have to eat everything. We have a very healthy compost, and waste a lot of food, but we also have two very healthy little girls. I can’t ask for more!!
Even if they will never eat veges like mine, here are some tips to boost their intake and improve the healthiness of your cooking (and thereby improve their health and longevity):
- Cook in water not oil.
- Use stock instead of salt.
- Add grated carrot, red kidney beans, and cubes of zucchini to your spaghetti sauce, shepherds pie, or casserole (don’t stress if they pick it out).
- Add kale to their smoothies and juices.
- Eat vegetables in front of them – it’s not unusual for me to knock about the house with a carrot hanging out of my mouth.
- Use spices – cheese and chives on toast, rosemary on a roast potato, etc.
- Let them cook – we often make pizza together, and it is piled full of peas. We do this so often that Evie called her cousin a “weirdo” for not putting peas on his pizza!
- Have a tasting – if you get a dozen different vegetable out and ask them to chose 4 of their favourites, you’ve got something to fall back on when they “don’t like” something.
If you have ideas that worked for you, please share it below! Together we can try everything and have healthy happy kids!