Greens are packed full of nutrients and so good for you. Fresh leafy greens are important elements of a balanced diet. However, convincing your children to eat their greens is not an easy task for some parents. In fact, statistics show that only 22% of children are meeting the government recommendations for vegetable consumption as most kids prefer to fill their faces with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and sugar instead of a healthy meal. Don’t worry. We have some great ideas that work for how to get kids to eat greens!
If you hear the word “yuck” every time your little ones see greens on the table, don’t lose hope yet. With consistency and persistence, you can eventually get your kids to eat their greens as there are many ways to incorporate healthy foods into your child’s diet.
Simple Ways to Get Kids To Eat Greens:
Involve kids in the food preparation
When going shopping, allow your child to pick out the greens. There many different types of leafy greens. Maybe they like salads the best and you can focus on different types of lettuces. Maybe they like cooked greens best and you can focus on exposing them to the many choices from spinach greens to beet greens, to turnip greens, to kale. Let them admire the colors and textures of the produce. Encourage them to help in the preparation as well, with supervision, of course. Let them set the table, too. Helping out will make them more excited to eat it later.
Be a role model
Research shows that kids tend to follow the eating habits of their parents. If greens are not a priority in your household, don’t expect your kids to love them. Kids eat what they know and what they see you eat; so show your children how much you enjoy eating your greens.
Also, kids love cartoons and the love to emulate things they see. With this in mind, you may want to let them watch some old episodes of Popeye. After all, Popeye, the sailor man, eats his spinach by the can and he grows big and strong afterwards. Hey, it is worth a try!
Enforce the one-bite rule
Many parents have had success with the “one-bite” rule. This requires the child to at least try one solid mouthful of a food they have rejected. Why? Research shows that children who have rejected food should be exposed to it at least 8-10 times for the food to be accepted. Food will then be more familiar to the child and they will gradually like eating them.
This method worked well with my son for peas. He hated them but we stayed consistent with just one bite for a long time and he grew used to them. I also tried preparing them in many ways until I found some he like better than others.
Make food fun
Children like colorful food. Expose them to more colors by adding variety to their plates. Even greens have a spectrum of color from light green to dark green and mixed with shades of red or yellow on beet greens. Another way to make food fun is by arranging and designing food into patterns on their plate. Kids like their food separated into piles. Shape it into a smiley face or a heart to get their attention.
Sneak veggies in
There are many ways of sneaking greens into food that your kids normally love. For instance, serve mushroom burgers, or homemade pasta sauce, or top your homemade pizza with spices and veggies they need. Another way to sneak veggies in is by serving them with smoothies. Green smoothies or freshly juiced fruit juice with greens are easy to make and they taste great – even for kids who don’t usually enjoy eating fruits. Add spinach, honey, and soy milk to fruit mix, and your child will be happy to drink it.
Instead of reprimanding your child for an unfinished plate, reward good behavior. Fighting and punishment only create a negative eating experience while rewards create positive food experiences and a chance of decreasing picky eating tendencies. Don’t bribe them with sweets though, as you may be defeating your purpose. Try rewarding them with things like stickers for one whole bite of rejected food.
I hope you find these tips helpful for how to get kids to eat greens. All it takes it a little perseverance and a variation of styles until you find something they like and it grows from there.
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Toddler Mom says
I agree with every one of these tactics and have used them all at home. Some work better than others, but all in all they are worth trying. I’m usually able to get raw baby spinach into a lot of foods by calling it “sprinkle.” I chop up a handful pretty finely and let him “sprinkle” it onto whatever he’s eating (on top of pizza, on a sandwich, in a taco). It’s so small that he doesn’t notice it, and the fact that HE’S the one adding it to his meal helps quite a bit. I find that involving him in the cooking process (usually) makes a big difference. Except with canned peas…
Small Footprints says
I don’t have kids but I’ve heard that when kids help grow their own food they are very motivated to eat it. So I’d say start a garden with your kids and grow things that are easy to grow and that grow quickly (so that they are rewarded reasonably fast for their efforts).
Lori Cook says
These are great ideas to make veggies and all healthier food fun and accessible for kids.
This applies to adults who find sneaky ways to make vegetables taste better too. Good advice!