1. Offer when hungry: When your child is hungry, it is the best time to offer foods that are not their favourites. If they are hungry enough, they will be more likely to try what is available. Offer your child some raw veggie sticks and something healthy to dip them in, such as hummus or guacamole.
2. Have fun with your food: Kids love to play with their food and I encourage them to do this. It is a way for them to explore and learn and helps them to become more comfortable with new foods before putting them into their mouths. Kids also love foods they can roll up, so wraps, burritos, sushi rolls and such are great. Put out a variety of fillings and let them pick what they want to put inside. Cutting food into fun shapes is always a big hit as well as any food that involves dipping. Bottom line is, if the food on your child's plate looks appealing to them, they will be more likely to eat it.
3. Offer choices: If you ask your child if they would like some vegetables with their meal, there is a good chance they will say NO. Instead, give them a choice, as kids love to feel like they are making the decisions. Pass around a plate of vegetables and ask your child - would you like to try the carrots or broccoli? At first, you can make one of the options something you know they like, but then branch out from there. It is also a great idea to take them with you to the grocery store or a local farmers' market and let them choose their own vegetables.
4. Make your vegetables taste good: The way in which a vegetable is prepared can have a huge impact on its taste, texture and eye appeal. Microwaving vegetables will deliver a strange texture along with a loss of nutrients. Avoid boiling your vegetables, as it is not the most flavourful cooking method and many nutrients are lost in the cooking liquid. This is fine if you are consuming the liquid (soup, for example) but not if you are removing the vegetables to consume separately. Roasting and sauteing vegetables or adding fresh herbs/garlic are great ways to enhance flavour. Get creative and experiment with new recipes. We tend to assume that kids prefer bland foods but this is often not the case.
5. Show your child where veggies come from: Taking you child to the supermarket with you is great, but this in not where food really comes from. Take your child to a farm or even better - start your own vegetable garden. Kids love watching the plants grow, digging up potatoes, pulling carrots out of the ground and getting their hands dirty! Getting involved in this way will get them really excited about vegetables and they will look at them in a whole new way.
6. Hire your child as a sous-chef: Get your child involved in preparing their meals and snacks. It will not only help them to become more independent as they get older, but it will give them a sense of accomplishment and they will take some ownership over what has been prepared. This will increase the likelihood of them actually tasting the finished product.
7. Set an example: Eating is a learned behaviour and children will often imitate how we eat. You cannot expect your kids to want to eat their vegetables if you are not willing to do the same. So make sure to include a healthy portion of veggies on your plate and lead by example!
Aviva Allen, Kids' Nutritionist | www.avivaallen.com