Getting children to eat vegetables can be a daily battle for many parents. While sweet potato wedges and cherry tomatoes often get the green light, broccoli florets and beetroot tend to get pushed aside. We know that vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that will support our immune system and keep us healthy, but that’s not necessarily going to sell it to a 3-year-old.
So what does work? Here are my top five tips.
Hummus, pesto or peanut butter:
Having a dip can make a huge difference to veggie compliance. In one study, serving a vegetable with a dip was found to increase the amount children ate, plus it made children more likely to later eat the same vegetable without the dip. You could try hummus, pesto or even peanut butter on celery sticks. For cooked veggies, I’ve found a simple salad vinaigrette can lead to greens disappearing before your eyes. One of my son’s friends who stubbornly refused broccoli started eating it regularly once he tried it with this dip: 4 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice), 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp wholegrain mustard – shake in a jar and drizzle on top.
What child can resist a warm muffin? To sneak in some greens, and skip on the sugar, try these organic courgette and bacon muffins. Some don’t agree with hiding vegetables, believing it reinforces the message that vegetables are ‘inferior choices’ and aren’t worthy of being enjoyed in their own right. However, as a Nutritional Therapist my main aim is to expose children to as many vegetables as possible since we know that eating a variety of vegetables (and fruits) has huge benefits for our gut health as well as immune function. It’s also true that ‘hiding’ vegetables can be an effective way of introducing new flavours to children in a non-threatening way. Aka, the roasted courgette fingers that were initially spurned, may be wolfed down once they’ve got used to the flavour (and flecks of green) in this tasty courgette muffin.
Brocamole anyone? Even Nigella Lawson has put a spin on this one (For kids simply omit the chilli). You could also experiment with blitzing some carrot into your hummus or try my roasted beetroot and avocado dip.
Rice is typically a fairly popular item on children’s plates. So why not sneak in some cauliflower? Simply cut up florets, blitz them in a blender for a few seconds, fry with a little oil for 2 minutes in a pan and add a few tablespoons to your child’s cooked rice. This works especially well when added to fried rice.
Cauliflower is teeming with benefits; it’s a prebiotic food, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in your gut and, like broccoli, it has many anticancer benefits. Cauli is also a source of choline which is emerging as vital for children’s brain development.
How many of you start the morning with a smoothie? How many of you have a child tugging at your pyjama bottoms for a sip of said smoothie? Why not make them their own? For a delicious Choc Greens Smoothie Recipe, try mixing one small banana with 150 ml of milk (I use oat milk) small handful of berries, 1 tsp of raw cacao and a small handful of spinach ( or half a tsp of greens powder if you have that available). If your child is sensitive to cacao you could swap for carob powder or simply leave out.
Laura Bond is a Nutritionist (DipION) and published author. She works with men, women and children to help them achieve optimum health through food, supplements and lifestyle medicine. She has a special interest in reducing environmental toxins – to boost our health and heal the planet. To arrange a free 15 minute consultation, or to find out more contact [email protected]