To get kids to eat their broccoli (and other veggies), try these tips.
My first born (3 1/2 yrs old) is a poster child for a dietitian's son. He will choose oranges over cookies, tomatoes over pie. He will try at least one bite of just about anything, even if he doesn't like the look of it or hasn't cared for it in the past. I've always told him "Eat one bite. If you really don't like it, you don't have to eat the rest." Now, if it's something I know he likes just fine but isn't all that hungry or sees something more delectable nearby, I'll tell him to eat more of it than that, but in general, the one bite rule is all I ask for. He has always loved fruits and vegetables. Meat he took some time to come around to, but he will eat almost any meat/chicken/fish now.
However, just as I was feeling so proud of him and thinking that my low-pressure, non-stressful, high variety dinner table had lead to such a healthy diet, boy #2 transitioned from purees to real food. Sweet D has a sweet tooth. He loves desserts and sweet treats and adding a little sugar to some foods definitely increases his intake (e.g. mashed sweet potato + a little brown sugar + cinnamon). He devours any fruit, but vegetables usually are ignored or thrown on the floor. I continue to give him the same vegetables the rest of the family is eating - but in small portions, knowing I will be picking most of them off the floor where he has scattered them around his chair. He does eat a few, which is an improvement (and I sneak a fair amount into his diet without him knowing it - more on that in a future post). We even had a big success this week where he ate two florets of broccoli with dinner! Big thanks to Dad, who modeled great habits and enticed with rewards of increased super strength from eating his trees!
Studies show that adding fun and creative names to foods does increase the acceptability - and consumption - of foods for kids. Turning broccoli into trees for dinosaur boys to eat or calling it "Super Strength Broccoli" is more likely to result in some of it getting into their bellies than simply telling them eat it. Attempting to force them to eat their vegetables is likely to backfire; best to avoid mealtime battles - make healthy foods available, limit the unhealthy ones, and let them play with their food. We know that kids learn best through play, and they seem to eat best that way too! In addition to adding silly names to vegetables, try:
- limiting snack intake between meals to just small portions (of mostly healthy food) and water instead of milk or juice
- changing the way you serve them. Raw veggies vs. cooked, added to a favorite dish, cooked in a different way, served with dipping sauce, etc.
- learning about different vegetables (how they grow, how to cook them, etc.) and encouraging exploration using all 5 senses before eating
- making a big deal when they do eat a healthy food that they rejected in the past (think: Yay!! D ate all of his broccoli! Look at his plate! He must have eaten 5 bites of broccoli today - great eating, D!)
- modeling vegetable intake yourself. Monkey see, monkey do.