Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Eat Your Veggies!!"

Ever said that to your child? Your spouse? ...Yourself? I thought I would post some of the ways we get folks around here to eat fruits and veggies. And I would love to hear your tips for success, as well. Or your struggles. Both, perhaps. I know we have a mix, depending on the day!

Here are some tips that many of us might have already heard. The last one is our newest and most successful... We have to keep stocked up on many of these veggies now because they just get eaten so quickly! What a great problem to have, huh? Most of my tips are for veggies, but if it's fruit you have a hard time with, the same methods would apply. We happen to have fruit-lovers in this house, so we don't have a problem in that area. My kids are fairly very good eaters, but there is always room for improvement. And even with good eaters, there are still complaints when certain foods get put on their plates...

First and foremost, and you'll hear this everywhere, is showing by example, of course. The kids see us eating vegetables and enjoying them, and they're more likely to follow. I recently read something that stated if you eat with a smile, they will want to try the foods more. Makes sense. Why would they want to miss out on something that is enjoyable?

And, of course, there is also serving foods repeatedly. The more they are exposed to a food and the more times they try it, the more likely they will like it. I have proved this to be true with my 12-year-old, enough so that he will sometimes argue over not wanting to eat a food, will taste it (once again!), only to tell me, "You did it again, mom. I like it now..." Sigh. (That was him sighing, not me.) Sometimes he thinks it's funny, but I'm sure sometimes he's really annoyed that I won. It's nice because when he's complaining about not wanting a certain food, I can smile and say, "You KNOW this works; you know why we do this."

Aiden adding the "secret" ingredient to
strawberry soup - spinach!
Now, this does not mean we *force* the kids to eat foods they hate. No. I think it's quite counterproductive to do so (this comes from being a mom who tried that when the 12-yr-old was much younger and saw how well it did not work). We want our kids to WANT to eat these good foods. The best way to get them to NOT want the foods is to force it on them...

I also don't really like the idea of "hiding" veggies in their food. I do put veggies in when you might not expect it. I add some chopped up spinach in all sorts of things like soups, lasagna, and other sauces. I make green smoothies. I find ways to get extra veggies in lots of dishes to get the kids eating things they might not like on their own. BUT I do not keep it a secret. Instead, I let them in on the secret. They often think it's cool to find out there is something "hidden" in there and you can't tell by taste. I've watched as my older son tells a friend to try a muffin, only to then exclaim, "There's squash in there! HAHA! You didn't know, did you?!" Again, we want our kids to want to eat these foods. If they don't know they're in there, how can they learn to appreciate them?

I want to add another thing to consider... Sometimes kids don't like foods because they have a problem with the texture or something else about it. They might never like that food. Camden has a problem with certain textures, especially with things like mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes - things that have that soft, smooshy texture to them. He's been exposed his entire life (or at least 11 years of it, so far) and how he feels about these foods hasn't changed. He has learned some ways to tolerate them better, and with repeated exposure, he's learned to at least be polite and have a taste or more. We've also found other ways he *loves* the same foods, just cooked differently. The kid could eat roasted potatoes every single day. He gets so excited when we have them, and no matter how many I make, there are never, ever leftovers. Give him a baked potato and let him add salsa, and he's a happy camper! We try to keep these things in mind and acknowledge that there might be reasons other than taste that someone doesn't like a food. We will continue to serve the foods, but we also don't serve them in that certain way often. There are many ways to change the texture of a food or ways to make it more appealing. To us, this is not catering to the child because we do serve the foods those other ways at times, but it is important to consider why they don't like foods and also to keep everyone's preferences in mind when meal planning.

We've probably all also heard to grow your own foods, visit the grocery/farmer's markets (and I would add pick-your-own farms to the list) so they can experience where the food comes from, etc, etc. Great ideas. We don't have a garden currently, but I'm anxious for when I do get to grow one! We do visit farmer's markets, pick-your-own farms, and the kids are usually along for grocery trips. You can have some good conversations about food, and the kids are more likely to try foods they helped pick or pick out.

And another favorite is to involve the kids in the meal preparation. Lately, the now-3-year-old (still getting used to saying he's 3!) will not let me do a thing in the kitchen without begging to help. Sometimes it slows the process down and makes a mess. Well, always. Dinner has been later on days he's "helped"... But he is learning so much and gets such a kick out of doing whatever he can. I love having him in there working with me. He'll even beg to help wash the dishes. No way do I tell him "no" to that request! ;) Kids are also more likely to try foods they have helped prepare, though. From time to time, this hasn't been the case with the toddler, but it usually is. And I have to keep in mind...he's a *toddler* - they make their own rules most days, right?

This guy LOVES to help cook! He's excited that we're
making pancakes for big brother's birthday dinner!
Aiden really enjoying eating all of the
blueberries that were supposed to go
in the pancakes!

My 12-year-old is sometimes responsible for cooking a meal (with help when he needs it), and he will often choose things that surprise us and make us wonder, he would really like that? He'll pick soups that have a bunch of veggies in it, along with something like pepperoni (which is what drew him to the recipe to begin with, I'm sure!). He chops up the veggies and cooks the meal...and then we eat! It's a great lesson for him to learn how to cook. He also is more likely to try new veggies if it's in something he made. And it's nice because he gets to be on the other side, seeing what it's like to spend time planning and creating a meal and then possibly dealing with people who might not love it as much as he does. ;)

Yes, the onion goggles are pink. No, it doesn't
bother him one little bit. ;)

He's also always pretty proud of his creations, as he should be! 

Then there's always getting some of the other foods OUT of the house. Keep more of the junk out so that the options they have in front of them are better choices. They'll eat from what is available, so why not make what's available what we really want them eating? Makes sense.

But our current favorite is one we've really been taking advantage of... Just put the food out and don't say a word! 

One time I do this is with meal prep. If I'm cutting up carrots for stir-fry, for example, I get out extra. Anytime the little guy sees me cutting up food, 9 times out of 10, he tries to sneak some away. He gets a kick out of thinking he's taking food he shouldn't. I get a kick out of letting him think he's getting away with it. But I've put out extra so that I have enough for dinner AND for him to "sneak." Win-win!

The biggest way we've been successful with this, though, is dinnertime. I serve the meal like normal, veggies and all. We have the "try one bite" rule. I think it's important for them to be repeatedly exposed to foods, even if they think they don't like them. The more tries, the more likely they'll start liking it. I also think it's important for them to learn to be polite and be able to eat foods they don't love. One day they'll be at a friend's house and will be served something they don't want, and I would certainly expect that they have learned to keep quiet and eat some simply to be polite. I keep in mind my kids' tastes when meal planning, but we certainly don't cater to them. We try to always have something we know the kids like with a meal, but we don't shy away from serving things they don't like. They'll get there. Back to my original tip, though... Along with dinner, we put some extra veggies out on the table.

Extra veggies? How much do we expect them to eat, right? These veggies are different. We now keep a container full of cut-up raw veggies...carrots, peppers, zucchini, cucumber...we mix it up. At dinnertime, we set it out on the table, along with hummus for dipping. And that's it. If the kids don't love what the main veggie is (after they've had a bite), they are free to take from this container. We don't remind them or push them to eat it. It's simply there. And guess what? It's amazing how much more they eat! 

Even if they like the dinner veggies, they usually eat from the others, as well! It's taken out a lot of our stress because we don't feel the need to push them to eat veggies, and it's given them the power of choice, which does help them eat more. We still expect them to try what we serve, and they usually (not always) eat it fine. I think having the extra choice and the lack of pushing is much more encouraging - and even helps them eat what is on their plate. We've noticed we go through a LOT more carrots and peppers this way, even when they eat what's on their plates. Funny thing, the same goes for us parents - we always end up grabbing some of the raw veggies, too! 

I've even started doing this at lunch with the toddler, and we all eat more veggies then, too. The little girl I watch some days gets so excited when I put out the veggies/hummus - I actually have to wait and put it out after most of lunch is eaten because then they might not eat their other foods! The other day at lunch, I didn't set out the extra veggies and the hummus because I thought there was plenty of food, and Aiden exclaimed, "Where are the veggies?! I need the veggies!" I was happy to oblige and set them out. He didn't eat much, just a few carrots maybe, and it may have been just out of habit that he asked for them...but that's good enough for me. He noticed there were normally more veggies and asked for them - a three-year-old! Can't get better than that!

I've noticed it really does help to keep vegetables cut up and ready to go in the fridge. Not only are they ready to be pulled out for meals, but everyone snacks on them more often, and the older child packs more for his lunches this way. The food is there and easy to just grab; that alone makes it more appealing for kids and adults. As mentioned before, we've found we are having to buy these vegetables a lot more often now. We buy a big bag of organic carrots each week, and the kids are requesting peppers whenever we make the grocery list, as well as other veggies that are in season. Even with the older child not being a big fan of hummus, the rest of us are eating enough that I have to make it once a week (or more), as well. There's a lot more veggie buying and chopping going on here, and that is a problem I most definitely welcome!

Even we were shocked when Aiden snuck this pepper away
during dinner prep one night...and ate the whole thing like he
would an apple! It took some effort to get him to hand it over
just so I could cut out the seeds! Yay for veggies!
Want more tips? Here are some great websites that I recommend!
Today I Ate a Rainbow!
100 Days of Real Food

Oh, and I just remembered about a post from sometime last year. Worth reading! Kids sitting down to watch tv? Try this out... See how many veggies they'll eat!

Feel free to share your tips for getting the kids (or the adults!) in your house to eat more fruits and veggies!

And stay tuned... We'll soon be having a giveaway that might help your family eat even more fruits and veggies every day!


Becky said...

I have one trick that I've found works with Colin really well. Whatever food I'm working on ( our most recent was carrots) I just serve myself some at least once a day and eat it in front of him without discussing it or giving him any. After about a week he usually wants to feed some bite to me and then I know we are on our way. He eventually takes a little nibble and I just ignore it. Now he claims to love carrots even if he won't eat more than a few bites..the only problem now is I have to be able to eat it...so peppers are out..

Daisy and Ryan said...

Ooh, that's a great one! I do that sometimes with kale chips. Sometimes I can't help but ask him if he wants some or comment on how good they are (to get him wanting some!), but I know it would probably work more to my benefit if I just be quiet and let him see me enjoying them. One night I did this, and he actually ate more than he usually would (usually takes one bite and either spits it out or says he likes it but doesn't eat more - haha!). He actually ate a LOT, and we were going to make more b/c we ate them all..but by the time we made them, he was off doing something else. Of course!

I've had to stop eating peppers b/c they were hurting my joints (we know it's the peppers b/c it was the one food we suddenly were eating every day and stopping made the wrist joint pain go away - I was/am so bummed!). Aiden has decreased his love of peppers a bit since then, which I hate... I guess just him seeing that I'm not eating them has had enough of an effect. He still eats them, just not quite as much as before.

Great idea! Thanks! :)

Sherri said...

you've got my curiosity up....what's kale chips? and how do you make them? sounds yummy.

Daisy and Ryan said...

Hi Sherri!

Here is the link for the kale chips recipe :) http://ourgrowingfam.blogspot.com/2011/07/kale-chips.html

I also have a recipes tab along the top of the blog where I (try to remember to) link up all the recipes I post on the blog.

Thanks for commenting and asking! I hope you try them and like them. :) Let me know what you think!